Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena led home side Kerala to their maiden win of the season with a seven-fer on day three of their clash against the table-toppers Punjab. In other games, Andhra inched closer to an innings victory over Hyderabad, while Rajasthan managed to gain a lead over Gujarat.
Saxena’s seven-star performance for Kerala
Having begun the day at 88 for five — with a lead of 97 — overnight batsmen Salman Nazir and Mohammed Azharuddeen added 20 more runs to the total, before the Siddarth Kaul show began. The pacer made light work of the rest of the lineup, picking up all the remaining five wickets. Kerala’s second innings folded at 136, setting up a 145-run target for the away side, who were looking for their third win of the season. A red-hot Saxena, however, had different plans. Having removed opener Rohan Marwaha with the very second ball of the innings, the experienced campaigner never looked back. Though seven Punjab batsmen made starts, none of them kicked on to finish the job for their side — they were bowled out for 124.
Hyderabad in big trouble against Andhra
Andhra resumed play on day three with a 12-run lead over Hyderabad’s first innings total of 225, with nine wickets in hand. And courtesy of half-centuries from skipper Hanuma Vihari, Ricky Bhui, and Karan Shinde, they went from strength to strength on the penultimate day, declaring eventually at 489 for eight. With a mountainous 264-run deficit to negate, Hyderabad set out in the most disastrous manner possible, losing three early wickets to the new ball bowling of Paidikalva Vijaykumar (three for eight). With a full day’s play in hand, Andhra only need another seven wickets, while their neighbours need to muster 219 runs if they are to make Andhra bat again.
Rajasthan edge ahead of Gujarat on a slow day
In stark contrast to the other games in Group A — two already producing a result and the other closing in on one — it was a slow-moving day at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. Rajasthan began play at 142 for one — 183 runs behind Gujarat’s first innings total of 325. Gujarat started the day brightly, with Chintan Gaja removing Mahipal Lomror — before he could add anything to his overnight score of 32 and skipper Rohan Bist for nought. But the incoming Ashok Menaria batted the remainder of the day — hitting 11 fours in his patient 86 — to carry Rajasthan to a slender lead at the end of play. He was ably supported by Manender Singh (73), and tail-enders SK Sharma (42) and Tanveer Ul-Haq (30).