Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy drove Bengal ragged as Vidarbha seized command of their Group D encounter on the opening day of the fifth round of matches in the Ranji Trophy on Thursday (November 9). Elsewhere, Chhattisgarh and Goa moved into the ascendancy against Himachal Pradesh and Services respectively as bowlers too had their say.
Faiz Fazal completed a third successive century and engaged himself in a 259-run opening-wicket stand with Sanjay Ramaswamy as Vidarbha had a field day at the Bengal Cricket Academy ground, finishing on 285 for 1 when the umpires called stumps to offer Bengal some respite.
Manoj Tiwary’s decision to field first to make the most of the early start in the east of India spectacularly backfired as Fazal and Sanjay dug in for the long haul. Ashok Dinda and Kanishk Seth failed to make any inroads, and Bengal’s anxiety quickly made way for frustration as the score began to mount. While Sanjay was content to bide his time, Fazal was a lot more expressive, befitting of a man coming off scores of 136 and 125 in his two previous innings.
Fazal, the captain, was the first to three-figures and the partnership swelled in proportion until Bengal finally tasted their only success of the day when Dinda trapped Fazal in front. Fazal fell for 142, his highest score this season, off 232 deliveries with 22 fours. Sanjay carried on unflustered, ending the day on a sedate 117 (238b, 14×4), and had Wasim Jaffer (18) for company at close.
Vidarbha lie second in the group 14 points from three matches, just ahead of Bengal who have 13 points from the same number of games.
Pankaj Rao and Shahnawaz Hussain, the new-ball bowlers, made early inroads and Sumit Raikar, the left-arm spinner, worked his way through the middle order to help Chattisgarh pull away at the HPCA Stadium.
The fast bowlers justified Abhimanyu Chauhan’s decision to field first by setting the tone early in the piece as Himachal Pradesh were shot out for 175. Chhattisgarh then capped off a fine day by motoring to 91 for 1 despite the fourth-over loss of Siddharth Chandrakar.
Himachal began aggressively and lost Prashant Chopra in the fourth over, but continued to remain positive despite the rapid fall of wickets. Their abandon left them in a deep hole at 92 for 6 in the 25th over, at which point Rishi Dhawan and Pankaj Jaiswal put on 35, the joint highest stand of the innings.
Ruikar ended the resistance by breaching Jaiswal’s defence for 25, then dismissed Dhawan for 35, the highest score of the innings, to ensure there was no rearguard resistance from the home side.
Ruikar had the best figures of 3 for 20, after Pankaj (3 for 52) and Shahnawaz (2 for 60) had done the early damage.
Sidharth Sharma threatened a Himachal fightback by accounting for Chandrakar but Rishabh Tiwari and Ashutosh Singh made sure there were no further setbacks as they put on 79 by the time stumps were drawn Tiwari will resume on 46 while Ashutosh, coming off centuries in the last two games, will look to make it three on the trot when he kicks off from 40.
Himachal currently occupy fourth slot with 13 points from four games while Chhattisgarh, also playing their fifth match, have six points to their name.
Vikas Yadav equalled his highest first-class score and put on 73 for the seventh wicket with Nitin Tanwar to ensure that it wasn’t a complete washout for Services at the Palam A ground. At close, the hosts had rallied to 228 for 8, a recovery of sorts in the bottom-of-the-table encounter.
Looking to make the most of the favourable overhead conditions, Sagun Kamat stuck the opposition in and looked on with delight as Heramb Parab led a strong charge by the faster bowlers. Parab struck with the third delivery of the game, having Vikash Mohan caught behind for a blob, to trigger a rash of wickets around which Nakul Verma, the Services captain, stood tall.
Playing his strokes with freedom, Verma breezed to 64 off 91 deliveries with nine fours but when he was sixth man dismissed, Services had only 118 on the board. That’s when Vikas strode out to join Tanwar, the two putting their heads down to address the situation resolutely.
As the surface eased out a little, the pair realised 73 in 205 deliveries to lend some respectability to the total. Tanwar fell in the last hour for 41, missing out on a second first-class half-ton, while Vikas had worked his way to 61 off 141 deliveries by stumps. Parab was Goa’s most successful bowler with 3 for 35, while Felix Alemao (2 for 63) lent his new-ball partner able support.
Goa have just two points from three matches while Services prop up the table with a solitary point, also from three games.