Punjab and Madhya Pradesh (MP) got their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal off to an interesting start as momentum swung from one end to the other on the opening day at the Alur III ground on Monday.
After being put under pressure by the Punjab top-order, MP bounced back quickly to bundle the Abhishek Sharma-led side for 219 and ended day one at five for no loss.
Heavy spells of overnight showers delayed the start of play by two hours, and Punjab elected to bat with the sun beating down hard on what looked like a benign surface. Openers Abhishek and Shubman Gill began fluently with delightful boundaries. However, Gill’s stay was shortlived. He succumbed to a cracking delivery from MP seamer Puneet Datey for nine upon return to the Punjab eleven after two years. Datey seamed the ball in late to hit the stumps as Gill wafted his bat down the wrong line.
Datey, in tandem with pacers Anubhav Agarwal and Gaurav Yadav, attempted to make further inroads. However, their grind was undone by a stoic Abhishek and Anmolpreet Singh, who gained ground despite iffy strokes across the line early on.
With spin introduced in the 16th over through Kumar Kartikeya, Abhishek upped the ante. The southpaw clobbered the left-armer for two sixes in his second over - a loft down the ground followed by an inside-out strike over extra cover - prompting an immediate change in bowling.
MP pegs back
The tables flipped soon as Punjab imploded after Lunch. Datey ended an 81-run stand between Abhishek and Anmolpreet as he dismissed the captain for 47. The wicket was set up beautifully after a short-ball barrage was followed by a fuller delivery. Abhishek went hard at it and handed a straightforward catch to first slip.
A procession of wickets followed. Anmolpreet (47), Mandeep Singh (1) and Gurkeerat Mann (12) were back in the hut within nine overs as MP capped off the second session by conceding just 49 runs for four wickets.
A lower-order fight led by Sanvir Singh (41) was not enough to save Punjab the blushes in the final hour as Gaurav and Agarwal returned to clear the tail.
While MP rode on the swirly lengths of Datey and the gusty pace of Gourav, the team spilt four catches between the last two sessions. While none proved costly, MP will to buckle up in the upcoming days as conditions and command seem to twirl constantly between the sides.