Even as Punjab and Railways slugged it out in the middle in a match where a draw was foregone conclusion, Yuvraj Singh was involved in an intense net session with teammate Manan Vohra, trying to correct errors in the latter's shot-making. The session lasted more than an hour in the withering heat and humidity and was perhaps Yuvraj's way of showing that he was serious in his role leading the side.
Railways began its Ranji Trophy campaign with three points and lots of confidence in a new set of personnel both on and off the field at the Air Force Sports Complex here on Sunday. With Punjab setting a near-impossible target of 359 in just over two sessions of play, the teams decided to call off the match after the mandatory overs were bowled on the final day, Punjab scoring 170 for the loss of three wickets in 58 overs in its second innings after conceding a 116-run lead in the first. Mandeep Singh (41) and Kaul (61) remained unbeaten with an 86-run partnership, the latter scoring his second half century of the game.
Railways coach JP Yadav had insisted that his team would go for an outright victory after giving Shukla a chance to reach his second century of the match after resuming play on 180 for two on the final day. But with the opener cleaned up by Siddharth Kaul three short of the milestone and overnight partner Mahesh Rawat caught at slip on 48, Railways declared on 245 for the loss of seven wickets an hour before lunch, giving enough time to its bowlers to force a result.
That didn't happen, though, as Punjab openers Vohra and Jiwanjot Singh began positively before Vohra edged Anureet Singh behind, trying to cut, for 11. Uday Kaul and Jiwanjot then scored at a brisk pace to take lunch at 47 and soon brought up their 50-run partnership. A brilliant catch by Ashish Yadav at gully ended Jiwanjot's innings on 33 to bring in Yuvraj Singh, the man 50-odd spectators had turned up to watch.
It was a different Yuvraj who walked out. Though he managed only 17 runs, 16 of them came off crisp, fluent boundaries – two through cover and one each to fine leg and midwicket – that proved his comfort level. A longer stay was clearly on the cards before Yadav latched on to a difficult return catch. Mandeep and Kaul scored boundaries at will but with the target too high and little time, the match simply dragged on before being agreed to be called off.
The scores (round one, day four)
At Jaipur: Baroda 544 for eight decl. drew with Gujarat 555 for four in 178 overs (Manpreet Juneja 201 n.o., Axar Patel 110 n.o., Bhargav Merai 70, Rujul Bhatt 58 retired hurt , Samit Gohil 43); Points: Gujarat (3), Baroda (1)
At New Delhi (Palam): Railways 331 & 245 for seven decl. in 81.2 overs (Saurabh Wakaskar 57, Shivakant Shukla 97, Mahesh Rawat 48, Vinay Choudhary three for 63) drew with Punjab 215 & 170 for three in 58 overs (Uday Kaul 61 n.o., Mandeep Singh 41 n.o., Jiwanjot Singh 33); Points: Railways (3), Punjab (1)
At Hyderabad: Madhya Pradesh 465 bt Uttar Pradesh 176 & 225 in 99.4 overs (Tanmay Srivastava 93, Sarfaraz Khan 49, Chandrakant Sakure six for 40); Points: Madhya Pradesh (7), Uttar Pradesh (0)
At Vizianagaram: Saurashtra 430 drew with Rajasthan 105 in 38.4 overs (Manender Singh 44, Shaurya Sanandia six for 14) & 30 for four in 14 overs; Points: Saurashtra (3), Rajasthan (1)
At Visakhapatnam: Odisha 150 & 274 for nine decl. in 102.1 overs (Govinda Poddar 58, Sandeep Pattnaik 40, Ranjit Singh 35, Subhransu Senapati 34, Deepak Behera 31 n.o., Akshay Wakhare three for 61) drew with Vidarbha 272 for six decl.; Points: Vidarbha (3), Odisha (1)
At New Delhi (Karnail Singh stadium): Maharashtra 210 & 188 lost to Jharkhand 306 & 93 for four in 19.5 overs (Virat Singh 33 n.o.); Points: Jharkhand (6), Maharashtra (0)
At Vadodara: Assam 193 & 313 in 96.3 overs (Syed Mohammed 82, Sarupam Purkayastha 47, Tarjinder Singh 42, Rahul Hazarika 40, Amit Verma 35, K.B. Arun Karthick 34, Manan Sharma five for 108) lost to Delhi 589 for eight decl.; Points: Delhi (7), Assam (0)
At Bhubaneswar: Himachal Pradesh 357 drew with Andhra 167 for one in 59 overs (D.B. Prasanth Kumar 93 n.o., Hanuma Vihari 68 n.o.); Points: Himachal Pradesh (1), Andhra (1)
At Nagpur: Goa 164 & 258 in 86.1 overs (Sagun Kamat 55, Saurabh Bandekar 51, Snehal Kauthankar 34, Rituraj Singh 30, M. Ravi Kiran three for 40) lost to Hyderabad 388 & 35 for one in 5 overs; Points: Hyderabad (6), Goa (0)
At Mumbai: Services 197 & 329 for six decl. in 104.3 overs (Nakul Verma 78, Shamsher Yadav 70, Ravi Chauhan 60, Anshul Gupta 40, Soumik Chatterjee 33) drew with Haryana 248 & 136 for one in 36 overs (Nitin Saini 101 n.o.); Points: Haryana (3), Services (1)
At Kalyani: Kerala 304 drew with Jammu & Kashmir 121 in 44 overs (Adil Reshi 40, Iqbal Abdulla three for 36, K.S. Monish four for 9) & 91 for four in 31.3 overs (Shubham Khajuria 39 n.o.); Points: Kerala (3), J&K (1)
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