Naman Dhir (131, 180b, 9x4, 7x6) and Prabhsimran Singh (126, 158b, 13x4, 3x6) scored gritty centuries as Punjab ended the second day’s play against Saurashtra at 327-5, with a slender lead of 24 runs.
In a Ranji Trophy quarterfinals clash at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Wednesday, Punjab resumed the proceedings at 3-0, and on a surface that offered little help to the bowlers in the first session, Dhir and Prabhsimran forged an opening partnership of 212 runs.
Both the openers came out with an aggressive mindset and played quality shots to put pressure on the Saurashtra bowlers. In the absence of Jaydev Unadkat, Chirag Jani and Chetan Sakariya failed to make an impact as Prabhsimran cut and drove fluently.
Initially, Dhir held fort at the other end, but as the day progressed, he stepped up and hit nine boundaries and seven sixes to put his team in command. Though spinners Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (2-82) and Yuvrajsinh Dodiya (2 for 58) claimed four wickets in the second and third sessions, Prabhsimran dominated them in the first couple of hours, hammering a flurry of boundaries.
The 22-year-old Prabhsimran started his Ranji Trophy campaign this season with a 202 against Chandigarh and scored 55 against Tripura in the third game. Thereafter, he had scores of 43, 4, 20, 31, and 13. But he brought up his third first-class century when it mattered the most for his team.
However, things slowly changed in the second session as Parth Bhut got the breakthrough. Attempting a slog sweep, Prabhsimran got a top edge, and Chetan Sakariya made no mistake at the long on.
Thereafter, Punjab lost a few quick wickets as debutant Pukhraj Mann, coming in for Abhishek Sharma, fell for a solitary run, and shortly after tea, the seasoned Dharmendrasinh struck, dismissing the settled Dhir.
Dhir tried to clear the ball over the long-on boundary but mistimed it. Dodiya, stationed at the fence, dashed to his right to collect the catch on the run.
In the third session, however, Saurashtra spinners bounced back and claimed the wickets of Anmolpreet Singh and Nehal Wadhera in quick succession.
With three wickets in quick succession, Punjab suddenly looked jittery, but captain Mandeep Singh (39 n.o., 120b, 3x4) remained calm and built a 35-run stand with Anmol Malhotra to ensure there were no further slip-ups.