Riding on half-centuries from opener Yash Dubey and Rajat Patidar, defending champions Madhya Pradesh completed their remarkable fightback as they beat Andhra by five wickets to enter the Ranji Trophy semifinals in Indore on Friday. After conceding a big first innings lead of 151, MP bounced back on the third day on Thursday by skittling out Andhra for a mere 93 in 32.3 overs in the visiting side’s second innings. Set a target of 245 to win the quarterfinal match, MP were 58 for no loss on Thursday and they knocked off the remaining 187 runs in 61 overs on Friday to win the match with a day to spare.
The heroic efforts of Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari who batted one-handed in both their innings after a wrist injury went in vain as his team could not stop MP from reaching 245 for 5 in 77 overs.
MP will now take on Bengal in the semifinals from February 8 in a repeat of last edition’s last-four stage match. MP had won that match by 174 runs at Alur, Karnataka.
Most of the MP top order batters except for captain Aditya Shrivastava (2) made useful contributions on the fourth day on Friday.
Opener and wicketkeeper-batter Himanshu Mantri was the first to go in the second ball of the day without adding any run to his overnight 31.
Dubey (58) then shared 62 runs for the second wicket with Shubham Sharma (40) before the former was out. Patidar (55) then stitched 49 runs with Saransh Jain (28 not out) for the fourth wicket to take MP to 207 for 4. Jain then completed the formalities along with Harsh Gawli (18 not out) to take MP home.
Lalith Mohan and Prithvi Raj took two wickets apiece for Andhra while Nitish Kumar Reddy got one.
Brief Scores: Andhra 379 and 93 Madhya Pradesh: 228 and 245 for 5 in 77 overs (Yash Dubey 58, Rajat Patidar 55; Lalith Mohan 2/91, Prithvi Raj 2/50).
Bengal Beat Jharkhand In Quarter-final
Packed with impact bowlers, a formidable Bengal demolished Jharkhand by nine wickets inside four days to progress to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals for the third time in a row, Friday. Bengal had played the final in the 2019-20 season and after a COVID induced break, the team qualified for the semi-finals last year when it lost to eventual champions Madhya Pradesh. In fact, defending champions Madhya Pradesh, which has been Bengal’s “bogey team” for quite a few years, is again pitted against Manoj Tiwary’s men.
Starting the day at 162 for 7, Jharkhand’s lower-order, led by Supriyo Chakraborty (41) did delay the inevitable for just about 15 plus overs in the morning before being shot out for 221.
The target of 67 was more of a romp for India A skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran (28 not out) and in-form Sudip Gharami (26 not out) as the umpires extended the first session to allow Bengal complete formalities in 12.4 overs after they lost opener Kazi Junaid Saifi.
Under new head coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Bengal’s pacers Akash Deep (match figures 6/108), Mukesh Kumar (match figures 4/94), Ishan Porel (match figures 2/90) shared 12 wickets amongst themselves.
Rookie Akash Ghatak (match figures 4/36) and seasoned left-arm spin bowling all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed (2/45 and 81 runs) also played the supporting role to perfection.
Match referee Daniel Manohar’s decision to award the ‘Player of the Match’ award to Akash Deep was fully justified as he set up the match for Bengal on the first day itself when Jharkhand were bowled out for 173 in just 66.2 overs. Akash was the wrecker-in-chief with 4/62 and Bengal never looked back after that.
This year’s Ranji Trophy could be a special one for Bengal as skipper Tiwary, also a junior Sports Minister in the Trinamool Congress-run state government, is likely to call it quits if they lift the elusive trophy after 33 years.
For that, Bengal’s pace unit needs to continue firing and produce the goods like it has been doing for the past three seasons.
A unit that has more often than not kept rival teams in the 300-run first innings range for the majority of the last three seasons (current one included) will always be respected by the opposition.
In Mukesh, Akash and Ishan, Bengal have found another potent seam and swing bowling unit after Ranadeb Bose, Shib Shankar Paul and the tireless Ashoke Dinda tormented the opposition between 2005-2008.
Bengal played back-to back Ranji Trophy finals without winning one.
The current troika has already played one final and one semi-final but the players would like to finish one better this time.
Brief Scores: Jharkhand 173 and 221 in 63.5 overs (Aryaman Sen 64, Akash Deep 2/46, Akash Ghatak 3/21, Shahbaz Ahmed 2/45).
Bengal 328 and (target 67) 69/1 in 12.4 overs (Abhimanyu Easwaran 28 not out, S Gharami 26 not out). Bengal won by 9 wickets. Qualify for Semi-final.
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