After five days of high-intensity cricket, Saurashtra rode on Parth Bhut’s maiden five-for (5 for 89) to defeat Punjab by 71 runs and storm into the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy.
It was an outing to remember for the left-arm spinner Bhut at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium as he initially bailed Saurashtra out with a century in the first innings and a 51 in the second essay, and then tore apart Punjab middle-order.
Chasing 252 - a tricky target on a surface that aided the spinners as the day progressed - Punjab resumed the proceedings at 52 for 2 with debutant Pukhraj Mann (42, 119b, 5x4, 1x6) and nightwatchman Siddharth Kaul around.
But on the last ball of the fifth over, Bhut pitched it fuller outside off and even though Kaul defended it on the front foot, he ended up getting an outside edge and was caught by Vishvarajsinh Jadeja at slip.
Captain Mandeep Singh (45, 128b, 4x4) tried forging a stand with Mann but soon after the visiting team crossed the 100-run mark, Mann was trapped in front by Yuvrajsinh Dodiya.
In the next over, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, who bagged three wickets, dented Punjab’s hopes further as Nehal Wadhera fell to a poor umpiring decision. Dharmendrasinh got the ball to bounce unexpectedly, and Wadhera shouldered arms. The ball shot up, and it looked to have gone off his elbow to the wicketkeeper, but the on-field umpire raised his fingers, much to Punjab’s surprise.
Trailing by 123 runs at lunch, Punjab hoped for its captain and the experienced Anmolpreet Singh to guide the team home. But as Bhut tightened the noose, Punjab middle-order crumbled under pressure.
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Anmolpreet, who looked comfortable, was dropped at gully at the beginning of the second session, but he failed to survive longer and was dismissed by Dodiya, shortly after Punjab brought up its 150. A flat delivery got a bat-pad and went to the short leg fielder Snell Patel.
As the Saurashtra players rejoiced, Punjab hoped for a turnaround. With captain Mandeep caught at gully and Mayank Markande allowing Bhut to complete his fifer after offering an edge to Prerak Mankad at first slip, Punjab’s hopes of making it to the last-four went up in the smoke as it was bundled out for 180.
Saurashtra will play Karnataka in the semifinals.