Saurashtra and Punjab share honours

RANJI TROPHY SEMIS: Jaydev, Jackson revive Saurashtra against the Harbhajan-led Punjab.

Harbhajan had the lone wicket of Saurashtra stonewaller Kotak. Rajkot: The Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium looks like a home after a wedding. Ladies still cleaning up the stands, five days after it hosted the first India-England ODI, as the five-day semi-final between Saurashtra and Punjab got underway with the eerie echo of ‘Come on boys!’ hitting the concrete in the stands. To not see a spectator at an Indian cricket stadium is a sad spectacle. A first-class reality yet to be ‘tested’. But life goes on, as Jaydev Shah won the toss, and asked his batsmen to pad up along with Punjab wicketkeeper Uday Kaul.

The bell rang, announcing the start of play, and umpires Chettihody Shamshuddin and Robert Bailey, the only Men-in-Black pants, made their way to the ground. Punjab’s field was set just as trains whizzed past like whistling caterpillars in the background. Sandeep Sharma who was seen measuring his line up with tape before the game, took the new ball. Openers Sagar Jogiyani and Shitanshu Kotak were keen to stay at the crease, but Siddharth Kaul got one to come in, with Jogiyani’s front foot nowhere in the picture, and the off-stump went for a walk, allowing Harbhajan Singh’s nails some respite at second slip, as the team huddled together to celebrate its first wicket.

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The Kaul brothers then operated in tandem, to send back Rahul Dave, a caught-and-bowled wicket for the family archives. Old warhorse Kotak with his ‘I’ll show you my stumps, but not my wicket’ stance kept things going along with skipper Shah. Harbhajan’s off-spinners were promptly offered the front foot, and the off-colour tweaker could only put his hands above his patka, full-sleeved arms intersecting, as the two left-handers defended and drove to 93/2. At 12:00 P.M, it was time to fill up their plates with lunch.

Match referee Raju Mukherjee went ding dong for the second time, and the post-lunch session began with three fours, all from Jaydev Shah’s bat at Siddharth Kaul’s expense. He soon brought up his half-century with another boundary, off opposite number Harbhajan, with the fielder at short cover diving only to find his hands going green. Kotak became the second to raise his bat, responding to the affection offered by the dressing room. A 40-year old who doesn’t have age on his side, but has a tidy average that has kept him in the side for long. However his longevity at the crease, was brought to an end by Harbhajan, partly by Kotak’s own doing, as he hit the ball straight into the hands of Mandeep Singh in the slips.

With the batsmen getting comfortable with the off-leg combination of Harbhajan and Ladda, the former took himself off, bringing in young Kaul to bend his knees at the bowling crease. The ball was coming on nicely to the bat, Shah and Jackson had no problem playing their shots, as there was lots of room on offer.  All that changed when Bipul Sharma came on to bowl his first over of the day.

Ten minutes before tea, Jaydev Shah tried to clear long-off with a cross-batted hoik, only to find the ball in the hands of Sandeep Sharma. Bipul celebrated with a Bhangra dance in slow-motion, as Shah walked offreluctantly. 70 of the man’s 87 runs came off boundaries, and his 18th attempt at clearing the fence, did him in. Numbers can tell a story, but this one stopped before it made it to the last page, of what should have been a 100-page notebook.

After the third and final bell, thankfully, there was a small crowd that came in to watch from the pavilion stand, hooting and cheering for Sheldon Jackson and Aarpit Vasavada. The latter fell leg-before-wicket to a good in swinger from Taruwar Kohli, while Jackson (70*) completed a well-deserved fifty with Kamlesh Makvana (13*) for company. This status quo could have changed if Kaul hadn’t missed out on a three-wicket haul, when he had Jackson caught by Harbhajan in the slips, albeit, off a no-ball.  Saurashtra 274/5 after 87 overs.

That ladies and gentlemen, was the story at stumps on day one.

SCOREBOARD

SAURASHTRA - 1ST INNINGS

S Kotak c Mandeep Singh b Harbhajan Singh 54
S Jogiyani b S Kaul 5
R Dave c U Kaul b S Kaul 16
J Shah c Sandeep Sharma b Bipul Sharma 87
S Jackson not out 70
A Vasavada lbw b Kohli 8
K Makvana not out 13
Extras: (b-10, lb-5, nb-6) 21
Total: (5 wickets, 87 overs) 274

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-58, 3-150, 4-194, 5-229.

Bowling: Sandeep Sharma 15-4-38-0, S Kaul 19-4-64-2, Amitoze Singh 4-0-20-0, Harbhajan Singh 15-1-59-1, S Ladda 19-5-53-0,  Bipul Sharma 9-4-10-1, T Kohli 6-0-15-1.

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