Siddhesh Lad's unbeaten 71 off 238 balls helped Mumbai salvage a draw in their milestone match. © AFP

Siddhesh Lad’s unbeaten 71 off 238 balls helped Mumbai salvage a draw in their milestone match. © AFP

No triple-centuries, no double-centuries, only one innings victory and as many as nine drawn matches – the action in the fifth round of Ranji Trophy 2017-18 was not as glitzy as some of the previous weeks. And no, no vehicle invasions were reported either.

But that didn’t mean there weren’t enough moments to make the headlines. In a series of upsets of sorts, Chhattisgarh beat Himachal Pradesh by an innings and 114 runs, Bengal were humbled by ten wickets by Vidarbha, Baroda almost inflicted a shock defeat on Mumbai and Odisha squeezed out a narrow first-innings lead against Tamil Nadu.

The buildup to the round, however, was studded with preparations for Mumbai’s milestone 500th Ranji Trophy match.

The buildup to round five

The numbers that mattered

Mumbai’s milestone hiccup

It was all good for Mumbai till the morning of the match. They had won one and drawn two matches in the lead-up while Baroda, who have struggled right from the beginning, had lost one and drawn two games coming into this match.

But once Deepak Hooda won the toss and asked Mumbai to bat, all hell broke loose on the hosts. The pace duo of Atit Sheth and Lukman Meriwala picked up all ten wickets between them to bundle out Mumbai for 171.

In response, Baroda rode on big tons from Swapnil Singh and Aditya Waghmode to rack up 575 for 9 before declaring.

It was Baroda’s highest total ever, going past their previous best tally recorded in a match against Punjab in Amritsar in the 2007-08 season, where they had declared at 583 for 5.

The writing was on the wall, and Mumbai were in dire need of a heroic face-saving effort.

Had Mumbai lost, it would have been their fifth loss against Baroda in 63 matches. The last of them was in 1998-99, when Baroda won by four wickets. Samir Dighe (Mumbai) and Atul Bedade (Baroda), the current coaches, were a part of that game. [Other losses: 1949-50, 1954-55, 1957-58.]

As Mumbai resumed on 102 for 4 on the fourth and final day, Siddhesh Lad (71 not out off 238 balls), Suryakumar Yadav (44 off 132), Abhishek Nair (8 off 108) and Dhawal Kulkarni (2 n.o. off 31) knuckled down for a tremendous display of resistance that helped the side salvage a draw.

“It hurt me to find Mumbai in this situation, especially in our 500th Ranji match. That motivated me to bat on and on,” said Lad after the match.

Phew, that was some relief for the Mumbai fans!

The Fazal-Ramaswamy show and Vidarbha’s triumph

It is the second time Fazal has hit three first-class centuries in a season. © Wisden India

It is the second time Fazal has hit three first-class centuries in a season. © Wisden India

Vidarbha trumped Bengal in their own backyard in Kalyani to register one of only three victories this week. The ten-wicket win was Vidarbha’s first-ever against Bengal in four attempts, and the batsmen ensured there was enough turmoil in the record books.

Sent in to bat, the Bengal bowlers suffered a harrowing assault from openers Faiz Fazal (142) and Sanjay Ramaswamy (182), who put on 259. It was Vidarbha’s highest opening stand, overtaking the previous tally of 171 between the same duo, against Saurashtra last season.

It is the second time Fazal has hit three first-class centuries in a season, the previous being in 2015-16. One of his centuries then had come in the Irani Cup, which means in terms of centuries, this year has been the best for the batsman while representing Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy.

Vidarbha are currently placed on top of the Group D points table, with 21 points from four matches.

The run-fest in Tangi

Tamil Nadu and Odisha faced off at DRIEMS ground in Tangi, on the outskirts of Cuttack, a match no bowler from either side would ever like to remember. Here’s why: Tamil Nadu batted on before declaring on 530 for 8. In response, Odisha’s batsmen put up a stubborn show that yielded 533 for 9 and the first-innings advantage.

M Vijay (140), Vijay Shankar (100) and B Aparajith (109 n.o.) were the architects of Tamil Nadu’s domination with the bat. The last time three or more Tamil Nadu batsmen scored centuries in a single innings was in 2011-12, against Gujarat. On that occasion, four batsmen (Abhinav Mukund, S Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik and K Vasudevadas) had got 100-plus scores.

Surprisingly, not a single batsman hit a century for Odisha, but a collective effort from Sandeep Pattnaik (66), Natraj Behera (91), Shantanu Mishra (77), Biplab Samantray (50), Rajesh Dhuper (97) and Suryakant Pradhan (43) helped the home side put up a strong show against a good Tamil Nadu attack.

The last time there were five fifty-plus scores in one Odisha innings was against Jharkhand in 2006-07.

Highest team totals in Ranji Trophy without a single century

603Madhya Pradesh, v Haryana in 1998-99
575Holkar, v Bengal in 1953-54
557Karnataka, v Hyderabad in 1999-2000
533 for 9Odisha, v Tamil Nadu in 2017-18

This was Odisha’s highest ever total against Tamil Nadu, comfortably surpassing the previous best of 327 in 2009-10.

Agarwal’s good run

Mayank Agarwal, who registered the third triple-hundred this season last week, followed it up with a knock of 176 against Delhi in Alur, just off Bangalore. It helped Karnataka rack up 649 runs in their first innings, and Manish Pandey was quick to predict a 1000-plus tally for his teammate this season.

Only six Indian batsmen before Agarwal have scripted a triple-century and a 100-plus knock in successive first-class innings. Here’s the list:

Vijay Hazare (twice)
WV Raman
Pankaj Dharmani
Cheteshwar Pujara
Sunny Singh
Priyank Panchal
Mayank Agarwal

Also read: Mayank Agarwal: Letting go and finding the runs

In other news…

– Chhattisgarh’s win against Himachal Pradesh – by an innings and 114 runs – was their first victory with bonus points since entering the Ranji Trophy last year.

Rohit Motwani‘s 189, the highest individual score registered this week, is now the highest score by a Maharashtra batsman from No. 6. The record was earlier held by Kaushik Aphale, who had hit 158 against Saurashtra in 1999-2000.

– The knock of 164 from Swapnil Singh was his maiden first-class century. The Baroda allrounder, who has played 43 first-class matches so far, made his debut in 2006 as a 14-year-old.

– The 246-run partnership between Upendra Yadav (127) and Saurabh Kumar (133) against Assam was the highest seventh-wicket stand for Uttar Pradesh. The previous best was 170 between Haseen Ahmed and Ghauri Majid against Madhya Pradesh in 1975-76

Prithvi Shaw, who has created a buzz in the domestic circuit ever since his arrival, scored the first duck of his first-class career on the first day of play against Baroda. It also happened to be the Mumbai opener’s 18th birthday.

Suresh Raina, the Uttar Pradesh captain who is aspiring for an international comeback, has yet to make a notable contribution in the Ranji Trophy. In four matches, he has managed to score only 105 runs, with a highest score of 33 and an average of 13.12.

Nasty injury scare

Aditya Sarwate suffered a head injury from a bouncer that hit the right side of his helmet during Vidarbha’s match against Bengal.

The batsman was on 60 when a short delivery from Ishan Porel struck him. Sarwate fell down immediately, and was advised to leave the field after the medical team had a quick look at his condition.

Sarwate returned to bat after another wicket fell, but felt dizzy after facing three balls. He had to go back to the dressing room, only to return once again in the 133rd over.

He was finally dismissed for 89, caught by Wriddhiman Saha off Porel.

“He is fine and there is nothing serious,” a Vidarbha team official confirmed at the end of the second day’s play.

The first reserve ‘keeper in first-class history

Tamil Nadu became the first side to make use of the International Cricket Council’s new rule, which now allows teams to field a substitute wicketkeeper from within the squad when the wicketkeeper suffers an injury.

N Jagadeesan, who injured his left ankle during Odisha’s innings, was replaced by R Rohith, the uncapped reserve wicketkeeper in the squad.

The rookie, however, literally missed out on grabbing the opportunity with both hands, dropping two catches that cost his side the first-innings lead.

“Maybe we are the first ones to use the reserve ‘keeper rule. However, the moment you accept it (catches being dropped) and move on, you can improve. You can’t keep thinking why it happened,” said Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Tamil Nadu’s coach.

Venue reshuffle for Tamil Nadu

If you are in Chennai in November, you know you got to keep the umbrellas and the raincoats handy. It’s a good break from the sweltering summer heat, but it’s not great weather for a game of cricket. Fearing a rain interruption, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association have decided to move the last two matches [against Madhya Pradesh (from November 17) and Baroda (from November 25)], scheduled to be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, out of the city.

With the BCCI’s approval, Tamil Nadu’s match against Madhya Pradesh is expected to be moved to Indore, while the one against Baroda will be hosted by Vadodara.

Debutants

Team Player
Assam Rajjakuddin Ahmed, right-arm pacer
Uttar Pradesh Abhishek Goswami, opening batsman
Bengal Ishan Porel, right-arm pacer
Jharkhand Utkarsh Singh, allrounder
Jammu and Kashmir Aquib Nazir, middle-order batsman
Maharashtra Mukesh Choudhary
Railways Pratham Singh, top-order batsman
Baroda Ahmadnoor Pathan, opening batsman
Kartik Kakade, offspinner
Tamil Nadu Velidi Lakshman, right-arm pacer
Services Vikash Mohan, offspinner
Goa Heramb Parab, right-arm pacer

Social Media watch

No cars this week, as we said earlier, so the grasshoppers took over.

Trendsetters

Highest match aggregate:
– in Round 5: 1223 (Tripura v Andhra in Agartala)
– Overall: 1475 (Himachal Pradesh v Punjab in Dharamshala)

Highest innings total:
– in Round 5: Karnataka – 649 (v Delhi)
– Overall: Himachal Pradesh – 729 for 8 declared (v Punjab)

Highest run-getter:
 in Round 5: Rohit Motwani (Maharashtra) – 209 runs
– Overall: Hanuma Vihari (Andhra) – 667 runs in five matches

Highest individual score:
 in Round 5: 189 (Rohit Motwani, for Maharashtra v Railways)
– Overall: 338 (Prashant Chopra, for Himachal Pradesh v Punjab)

Highest wicket-taker:
– in Round 5: Aamir Aziz (Jammu & Kashmir) – 9 wickets
– Overall: Jalaj Saxena (Kerala) – 29 wickets in four matches

Best bowling figures in an innings:
 in Round 5: 7 for 68 (Darshan Misal, for Goa v Services)
 Overall: 8 for 85 (Jalaj Saxena, for Kerala v Rajasthan)

Best bowling figures in a match:
– in Round 5: 9 for 149 (Aamir Aziz, for Jammu & Kashmir v Jharkhand)
– Overall: 12 for 184 (Chirag Khurana, for Maharashtra v Uttar Pradesh)

Most dismissals by a wicketkeeper:
 in Round 5: 7 (Keenan Vaz, for Goa v Services)
 Overall: Wriddhiman Saha (Bengal) – 20 in four matches

Highest partnership:
– in Round 5: 259 (for the first wicket between Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy for Vidarbha v Bengal)
– Overall: 308 (for the third wicket between Hanuma Vihari and Ricky Bhui for Andhra v Baroda)

Total debutants this season so far: 57

Bonus-point wins:
In Round 5: 2; Overall: 14

Three-day finishes:
In Round 5: 1; Overall: 7