Ranji Trophy semifinal: Jackson, bowlers give Saurashtra control

Sheldon Jackson scored a century in Saurashtra's 304 and then the bowling led by Jaydev Unadkat left Gujarat reeling at 119 for six on day two of the semifinal.

Sheldon Jackson plays a shot during Saurashtra's first innings on day two of the semifinal clash against Gujarat.   -  Vijay Soneji

The cricketers from Gujarat and Saurashtra have a lot in common -- apart from speaking the same language, most of them are friends off the field.

But then, all that friendliness takes a backseat every time the two teams clash in a Ranji Trophy fixture.

No wonder, Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium was a divided house on Sunday as the two sides aimed for the coveted first-innings lead in the semifinal. With a decent amount of supporters from both the sides -- including some office-bearers of past and present and former players -- cheering, there was never a dull moment.

And after a rather ‘bore us cricket’ by Gujarat -- as aptly put by Saurashtra batsman Sheldon Jackson -- on the first day, the home team came up with spirited show and went for the kill.

Starting with the overnight score of 217-5, Saurashtra rode on Jackson’s fine knock of 103 to reach 304 in the first innings, and then put Gujarat on the mat. Parthiv Patel’s men ended the day at 119-6.

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Trailing by 185 runs in the first innings at the end of the day's play, Gujarat needs a big partnership by Rujul Bhatt (batting on 28) and Axar Patel (unbeaten on 7), if it eyes a comeback.

On a track, where perseverance was the key, Gujarat lost openers Samit Gohil and Priyank Panchal early in the innings and could never really build on from there.

Panchal was trapped leg before by Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat even without opening his account. Gujarat opted for a DRS after on-field umpire, Rohan Pandit, declared Panchal out. But in the end, umpire’s decision remained. A while later, Gohil’s stumps were rattled by a splendid delivery by Chetan Sakariya.

Openers gone, Gujarat was unable to claw back, despite efforts by Dhruv Raval -- who was caught by Kishan Parmar off Unadkat for 37. Unadkat and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja -- who scalped two wickets each -- made life difficult for the visiting team.

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And soon after Parthiv’s (27) dismissal, Chirag Gandhi was caught by Parmar off Jadeja. Even though the on-field umpire thought it was not out, a DRS saw the call being overturned.

While Gujarat lost the plot midway, it was a dominating show by Saurashtra.

If Jackson’s ton -- who got a reprieve as Parthiv dropped a regulation catch on 82 -- helped the side cross the 300-run mark, the bowling unit had a clear plan: lure the opponent batsmen and defend the total. And leading from the front, Unadkat ensured the plan worked.

However, Gujarat’s young pacer, Arzan Nagwaswalla, would be disappointed man as his five-wicket haul was overshadowed by the team’s poor show with the bat.

Placed in a comfortable position, Saurashtra camp would look to bag the coveted first-innings lead early on Monday, and be a favourite of reaching yet another summit clash.

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