Ranji Trophy: All-round Bhut takes five-for as Saurashtra beat Punjab to enter semi-final

Parth Bhut capped off a dream game with a five-wicket haul after game-changing century and half-century as Saurashtra won a memorable Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Punjab by 71 runs on Saturday to set up a semi-final date with Karnataka.

Needing 252 to win, Punjab started the day at 52 for 2 and were all out for 180 in 89.1 overs with veteran Mandeep Singh’s 45 being the highest score.
Mandeep, a veteran of 13 seasons, failed to show any intent and his selfish, ultra-defensive 128-ball stay put Punjab in a hole.

The match will haunt Punjab for a long time as they had Saurashtra on the mat on the first day at 147 for 8 before Bhut’s 111 took them to 303. Punjab then scored 431 in their first essay with twin hundreds from Naman Dhir and Prabhsimran Singh but allowed Saurashtra to score 379 in second innings and put up a defendable total.

Once young Pukhraj Mann was out for 42, trapped leg before by off-spinner Yuvraj Dodiya (2/35 in 18 overs), Mandeep never showed any aggressive streak as left-arm spin twins Bhut (5/89 in 33 overs) and Dharmendra Jadeja (3/56 in 38.1 overs) choked the run-flow.

He did have a 49-run stand for the sixth wicket with Anmolpreet Singh (26) but the two senior players crawled for 21 overs and it was just a matter of one wicket.
Anmolpreet was offie Dodiya’s second victim caught by Snell Patel.

Mandeep was finally out when Vishvaraj Jadeja took a close-in catch off a Bhut delivery that bounced a tad more.

Once Mandeep was gone, there was no looking back for the 2020-21 champions Saurashtra who were without their inspirational skipper Jaydev Unadkat, team’s numero uno batter Cheteshwar Pujara and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

SCA president Jaydev Shah told PTI that he will request BCCI and Indian team management to release Unadkat for the semi-final starting February 8 in Bengaluru in case he is not considered for the playing XI of the first Test against Australia.

“We had even requested the BCCI for the quarter-final. We will request again for Jaydev but I will not lose my sleep if we don’t get him. Look at how our youngsters like Parth shouldered extra responsibility. We came from behind and beat a team like Punjab in a big game,” Shah said.

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