Sheldon Jackson’s second consecutive century helped Saurashtra consolidate their position on day two of their Ranji Trophy semifinal against Punjab at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday (January 17).
Resuming at 274 for five, the lower middle order came up with a resilient display that saw them add another 203 runs before being bowled out for 477, soon after tea. In reply, Punjab went into stumps at 41 for no loss, Jiwanjot Singh (11) and Ravi Inder Singh (30) playing out 17 overs before bad light brought an end to the day’s play.
At stumps on day one, Jackson had hoped to extend the score to 350 with some support from the lower order. Jackson, the pivot around which the innings revolved for the most part, got more than what he had desired.
Overnight 70, Jackson exercised a positive approach to begin the day. Punjab took the second new ball three overs into the morning, hoping to nip out a couple of wickets and get into the tail quickly, but that wasn’t to be. Jackson was quick to latch on to anything loose, as he set the tone with a couple of gorgeous cover-drives off Siddharth Kaul.
The Punjab pacers were a touch disappointing, given how well they had bowled on day one under similar conditions. They failed to create opportunities, even as Jackson and Kamlesh Makwana set their eyes on a big score. Jackson, fresh from knocks of 83 and 117 against Karnataka in the quarterfinal, got to his third first-class century of the season with a fierce cut off Siddharth and followed that up with a rasping straight drive to put Punjab on the defensive.
Makwana quietly played himself in and didn’t look in any hurry whatsoever. He was troubled on a number of occasions by Sarabjeet Ladda, the leg-spinner who got the odd ball to rip across the surface, and survived a few nervy moments. Jackson, on the other hand, tried to alter his approach from aggressive to defensive the moment he got to his century, and that played into Punjab’s hands. He played inside the line of Siddharth’s delivery to find his offstump dislocated as Saurashtra lost their sixth wicket in the 13th over of the day on 335.
Vishal Joshi, the left-hand batsman, looked completely at ease, especially against the spinners. Harbhajan Singh introduced himself in an effort to use the rough created at the other end, but to no avail. Joshi and Makwana were determined enough to keep batting on. As they consumed time, Punjab’s frustration was evidently visible with Ladda employing a negative line in a quest to stem the flow of runs.
They put on 91 runs for the seventh wicket before Makwana (85) was sent back by Ladda, adjudged caught behind. However, replays suggested that Makwana was unlucky to be given out, the bat brushing the pad as the ball made its way way through to the keeper. Ladda then quickly got the better of Jaidev Unadkat (9), who holed out to mid-on in trying to clear the infield before the last two wickets fell in the space of two overs.
After toiling for 19 overs without a wicket, Ladda was rewarded for his persistence and was clearly the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Siddharth, who picked up two wickets on day one, surprisingly went flat after giving Punjab their first breakthrough of the day.
Punjab faced the Herculean task of chasing down 400-plus for the second consecutive time and the openers began well to give the dressing-room a feeling of comfort at stumps. Spin was introduced quite early after Unadkat and Siddharth Trivedi, the pacers, didn’t make the batsmen play enough. Saurashtra could have had the perfect end to the day had they held on to a chance offered by Jiwanjot on 11 off Makwana, only for the catch to be put down by Jackson at silly point.