Mohali: At the PCA Stadium on Monday, opener Jiwanjot Singh's unbeaten 80 on day three put group leaders Punjab on track for their fourth outright win in five matches. The rookie batsman, who scored 213 and 158 in his first two innings in first-class cricket, collected 15 fours in his innings which took the home team to 149 for 1, needing just 55 more to beat defending champions Rajasthan on the final day.
That Punjab were set a target of 204 was down to another fine bowling effort from young pace bowler Sandeep Sharma, who took 5 for 57 to help bowl Rajasthan out for 196. From an overnight 56 for 1, Rajasthan lost nine wickets for 145 runs as the trio of Sharma, Baltej Singh and Siddharth Kaul made inroads. Kaul removed the innings top-scorer Vineet Saxena for 41 amid two strikes from Baltej, while Sharma ran though the middle order. The best stand that Rajasthan could produce was 48 for the seventh wicket.
Jiwanjot and Karan Goel (28) put Punjab on course for victory with a 64-run stand, and by stumps the former had put on 85 with Ravi Inder Singh, batting on 34.
Mumbai set Bengal 391 to win, while Hyderabad and Railways made watchful progress in reply to mammoth totals.
Brief scores: Punjab 149 for 1 in 41 overs (Jiwanjot Singh 80*) need another 55 runs to beat Rajasthan 222 and 196 in 58.2 overs (Sandeep Sharma 5/57)
A third consecutive century from in-form opener Hiken Shah allowed Mumbai to declare with a lead of 390 over Bengal at the Brabourne Stadium. Shah's 118 off 209 balls and Abhishek Nayar's unbeaten 73 off 90 – following a century in the first innings – allowed Rohit Sharma to declare Mumbai's second innings at 294 for 5 on day three.
With a lead of 96 at the start of the day, Mumbai lost Wasim Jaffer (19), Kaustubh Pawar (31) and skipper Rohit (14), before Shah and Nayar put on a century stand. Shah's century was his third after he made 140 against Rajasthan and 156 against Hyderabad, and came after a duck in Mumbai's first innings. This hundred was also the extension of form that dates back to the pre-Ranji season tournaments; Shah scored 107, 105 and 105 in three innings during the Safi Darashah in August. In between the Ranji season, he made 92 for Mumbai A against an England XI attack that comprised James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Onions and Monty Panesar.
By stumps, the visitors were 47 for 0 in 16 overs with openers Arindam Das and Rohan Banerjee batting on 19 and 23 respectively. Bengal need 344 runs on Tuesday in a minimum of 90 overs on a good batting surface.
Brief scores: Bengal 201 and 47 for 0 in 16 overs need another 344 runs to beat Mumbai 297 and 294 for 5 in 74.4 overs (Hiken Shah 118, Abhishek Nayar 73)
Hyderabad batted their way through day three and into a place of solidity entering the final day's play in Valsad, in reply to Gujarat's 566. The visitors began the day on 50 for 1 and proceeded to add 241 runs in 92 overs for the loss of just three wickets and trailed by 275 at stumps.
Mohammad Khader added 15 to his overnight 2 before he was out at 81 for 2 in 29 overs. The opener Akshath Reddy – captaining in place of the absent VVS Laxman – was the next batsman out for 79, but Hanuma Vihari (79), Bavanaka Sandeep (61*) and Syed Quadri (33*) resisted. The fifth-wicket pair has so far added 51. Gujarat are still on top, with a big lead, but an interesting fourth day looms.
Brief scores: Hyderabad 291 for 4 in 104 overs (Akshath Reddy 79, Hanuma Vihari 79, Bavanaka Sandeep 63*) trail Gujarat 566 by 275 runs
Railways made a stubborn reply to Saurashtra’s 576 for 9 declared by reaching stumps in Rajkot on 157 for 1 in 75 overs. An unbeaten 100 off 284 balls from No. 8 Kamlesh Makvana took the hosts from 534 for 6 to their eventual total, once Ravindra Jadeja was finally dismissed for 331.
Railways' Hardik Rathod captured 5 for 98 in 41.5 overs, his maiden five-wicket haul.
In response to that massive total, Railways' Amit Paunikar made 31 off 58 balls in an opening stand of 58, but once he was bowled by Jaidev Unadkat the visitors’ run rate slowed to a trickle. Shivakant Shukla (74 off 221 balls) and V Cheluveraj (49 off 174) scored their runs watchfully and by stumps had combined for a stand of 99 in 55.3 overs.
Brief scores: Railways 157 for 1 in 75 overs (Shivakant Shukla 74*, V Cheluveraj 49*) trail Saurashtra