Ranji Trophy: Shivakant hits century as Railways makes strong start

Railways finished Day 1 on a strong 257 for five, the Railways innings was powered by Shukla with handy contributions from the experienced Mahesh Rawat and Ashish Yadav lower down the order.

Shivakant Shukla Railways 2016 (File photo)

Opener Shivakant Shukla scored an unbeaten 117 to help Railways finish Day 1 of the Ranji Trophy match against Punjab on a strong note.   -  K. Ramesh Babu

For a long time, Shivakant Shukla has been trying to shake the tag of inconsistency. After two years in wilderness, the Railways opener announced his comeback with a gritty, unbeaten 117 against Punjab in the Ranji Trophy season-opener at the Palam Sports Complex here on Thursday.

Finishing the day on a strong 257 for five, the Railways innings was powered by Shukla with handy contributions from the experienced Mahesh Rawat and Ashish Yadav lower down the order. Yadav was batting on 65 with the wickets expected to ease further in the next few days.

“Every player wants to prove himself. To be honest, I just did not do enough to make the squad in the last two years even though I was always among the probables. The last season I played, in 2013-14, was also not great. So in a way I am relieved with the score but not satisfied. We need to do a lot more before relaxing against this Punjab side,” Shukla admitted.

While there was a lot of interest among players in the BCCI's reply to Justice Lodha panel's recommendations in the Supreme Court, Shukla answered his own doubts by mixing patience and aggression even as wickets kept falling at the other end. The erstwhile UP batsman's two sixes – over mid-off and extra cover – off left-arm spinner Vinay Choudhary were examples of his control. His 57-run partnership with Rawat for the fifth wicket and then 124 runs with Yadav for the sixth helped steady the innings after Punjab pacemen dominated before lunch.

“There was a lot of lateral movement early on but the wicket eased out later. The Punjab seamers too were very good and it did test us but it got better and will only get better from here on, which is all the more reason for us to put a lot more runs on the board,” Shukla said.

The opening session saw Manpreet Grewal and Sandeep Sharma trouble batsmen with both pace and movement while Siddharth Kaul reaped the reward from the other end with two quick wickets, leaving Railways struggling at 81 for four. Post lunch, Shukla and Rawat set about building the innings. A major blow to his shoulder from Grewal cut Rawat's innings short but Yadav stepped up to the task, providing support and ensuring there was no slacking off by scoring almost run-a-ball. Shukla survived a huge lbw appeal from Gurkeerat Mann on 99 before edging to third man to bring up his century.

Scoreboard:

Railways 1st innings: Sourabh Wakaskar c Yuvraj Singh b Manpreet Grewal 0, Shivakant Shukla batting 117, Akshat Pandey lbw Siddharth Kaul 3, V. Cheluvuraj b Siddharth Kaul 19, Arindam Ghosh lbw Vinay Choudhary 11, Mahesh Rawat c Mandeep Singh b Yuvraj Singh 35, Ashish Yadav batting 65; Extras (w 1, b 2, lb 4) 7; Total (for five wickets in 90 overs) 257

Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Wakaskar, 3.4), 2-15 (Pandey, 10.3), 3-57 (Cheluvuraj, 20.4), 4-76 (Ghosh, 29.1), 5-133 (Rawat, 54.6)

Punjab bowling: Sandeep Sharma 17-5-50-0, Manpreet Grewal 14-2-31-1, Siddharth Kaul 17-2-53-2, Mandeep Singh 4-1-11-0, Vinay Choudhary 20-5–52-1, Gurkeerat Mann 8-0-22-0, Yuvraj Singh 8-1-29-1, Jiwanjot Singh 2-0-3-0.

Ranji Trophy: Results: Day 1

Group A:

>Baroda 285 for two in 80 overs v Gujarat

>Tamil Nadu 87 in 45.3 overs v Mumbai 85 for four in 32 overs

>Railways 257 for five in 90 overs v Punjab

>Madhya Pradesh 292 for seven in 89.5 overs v Uttar Pradesh

Group B:

>Saurashtra 269 for five in 55.3 overs v Rajasthan

>Odisha 134 for six in 70 overs v Vidarbha

>Maharashtra 210 in 71.1 overs v Jharkhand

>Assam 132 for six in 62 overs v Delhi

Group C:

>Himachal 318 for seven in 80 overs v Andhra;

>Tripura 118 in 54 overs v Chhattisgarh 77 for three in 28 overs

>Goa 164 in 74 overs v Hyderabad 28 for one in 10 overs

>Services 143 for six in 57.4 overs v Haryana

>Kerala 263 for seven in 89 overs v Jammu & Kashmir