Rajkot: Cricket is a game, where the feeling of deja vu rules.
Lady Luck had decided to watch the match from Saurashtra's dressing room on day three. One day later, she decided to reward Punjab for their hard work in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy semi-final on day four, at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.
At 102/1, the hosts had moved on, after losing opener Sagar Jogiyani to Bipul Sharma's guile. Shitanshu Kotak carried on, doing what he does best. Blocking and driving, and testing the bowler's patience, as he has been doing for the last twenty years.
Kotak was helped in part by Harbhajan Singh, who dropped the left-hander when he was four runs away from a half-century. The veteran had Rahul Dave for company for about 19 overs, before Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh sent the latter indoors.
The Saurashtra opener, who requested Mandeep Singh to wear his shades, behind his head, saying it was distracting, would go on to celebrate a half-century. Saurashtra's captain Jaydev Shah then gave his wicket away, nicking Siddharth Kaul to Amitoze Singh. Kaul celebrated by saluting him twice.
Harbhajan then made up for the dropped catch, by having Kotak caught and bowled. And from then on Punjab, slowly began to chip away at the local batting.
"Holi aa rahee hai bhaiyon", shouted Sarabjit Ladda from third man.
Bespectacled Aarpit Vasavada managed to score a six without hitting one, as Harbhajan Singh forced an edge that was taken by Uday Kaul, ever alert behind the stumps. Kamlesh Makvana, was surprised on the back foot, by the bounce that Harbhajan managed to extract, Mandeep Singh diving to take a good catch in the slips. Three cheers and four wickets. Harbhajan's best performance in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season.
Siddharth Kaul sent Joshi back, with the ducks quacking. When Jaydev Unadkat decided to offer nothing with the bat, to an in-swinger. Kaul celebrated by looking up, and doing the parallel fist pump for what was a well-deserved wicket. Sheldon Jackson wasn't going to beat it, and the right-hander played a tidy knock, with Dharmendrasinh Jadeja for company till the board read 169/8. A 39-run stand for the ninth wicket.
Sarabjit Ladda sent back Jadeja, and when Siddharth Trivedi went for his second duck. Punjab had bowled out for Saurashtra for 170.
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Their players ran up the steps, openers ready to pad up. Mandeep Singh began taking a few knocks with one pad on. They were showing purpose, and were eager to make the most off the time available. It didn't seem so when Harbhajan Singh lost his off-stump in the morning as Punjab fell one short of 300.
But then. Who knew that the musical chairs would continue till the end of the evening.
In-form Jiwanjot Singh walked back after making eleven, his gloved hands allowing the ball to hit the bat, which in turn sent the red sphere to Vasavada at second slip. The bowler Jaydev Unadkat, celebrated his second wicket 14 runs later, giving Taruwar Kohli an in-his-face send-off.
Call it retribution if you can, Kotak dropped Mandeep Singh, after Jadeja spun a beautiful delivery from leg to off. Arms in shock, and disbelief all over the face of the left-armer.
13 wickets and 220 runs from both teams today. 304 runs or 8 wickets tomorrow? Ladies and gentlemen, we should see a finalist on the final day.
The game of cricket has won so far.
Till yesterday they thought they would win. Kotak's dropped catch is a good sign. Kal bahut badiya khelna padega. Hamara target tha kee we restrict them to 120, 170 was a little off-target. Will play good cricket, and we will win it 100 per cent if we last the entire day. It's the Ranji Trophy semi-final. Honour hai, paisa bhee - Punjab coach Arun Sharma.
The catch that Kotak dropped was a sitter. Happens in cricket. Kal dekhengey. First hour of play, before the drinks cart comes out will be crucial. Can't choose a winner till the end - Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra
Day 4 Scoreboard:
Punjab (1st Innings):
Harbhajan Singh b Trivedi 33
Sarabjit Ladda not out 1
Total: 299 all out, 110.1 overs
Saurashtra (2nd Innings):
S Kotak c & b Harbhajan Singh 53
S Jogiyani c Jiwanjot Singh b B Sharma 29
R Dave lbw b Harbhajan Singh 23
J Shah c Amitoze Singh b S Kaul 2
S Jackson not out 44
A Vasavada c U Kaul b Harbhajan Singh 6
K Makvana c M Singh b Harbhajan Singh 0
V Joshi c M Singh b S Kaul
J Unadkat b S Kaul 0
D Jadeja lbw b Ladda 5
S Trivedi lbw b Bipul Sharma 0
Extras: (b 4, lb 2, nb 2) 8.
Total: (all out in 63 overs) 170.
Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-102, 3-109, 4-117, 5-123, 6-123, 7-130, 8-130, 9-169.
S Kaul 16-5-53-3
Harbhajan Singh 26-6-60-4
S Ladda 13-5-30-1
Bipul Sharma 7-2-15-2
Mandeep Singh 1-0-6-0
Punjab 2nd innings (target: 349 runs)
Jiwanjot Singh c Vasavada b Unadkat 11
R Inder Singh not out 10
T Kohli c Kotak b Unadkat 13
Mandeep Singh not out 11
Total: (For 2 wickets in 19 overs) 45.
Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-30.
J Unadkat 6-2-16-2
K Makvana 4-0-15-0
D Jadeja 6-2-4-0
V Joshi 3-0-10-0