Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal’s impressive run with the bat continued this Ranji season as the right-hander smashed his second consecutive ton to bail his side out of trouble on the opening day of the Group B contest against Railways.
While his 105 against Punjab came in batting-friendly conditions in Mohali, the 141-run knock against Railways needed some doing on a green strip at the Karnail Singh Stadium.
Railways asked Gujarat to bat first on a pacer friendly pitch, and the openers struggled to play their natural game. There wasn’t much movement off the strip or in the air, but enough to keep the bowlers interested. Variable bounce, as early as first hour of play, only added to visitors’ struggle.
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Railways’ new-ball pair of K K Upadhyay and Anureet Singh bowled well in tandem, and kept Gujarat’s scoring rate down, but failed to make any additions to the wickets column.
If Singh attacked the stumps with a trap for the mistimed flick on the leg-side, Upadhyay, the pick of the bowlers, generated a nice shape away from the right-handers. Gujarat’s over-cautious approach early in the innings backfired as they lost opener Gohel in the 19th over to first-change seamer Ranjeet Mali. At this point, the scoreboard read a miserable 25/1 which soon became 26/2 when Upadhyay trapped Rajul Bhatt in front for 1.
With the team under pressure, in walked skipper Parthiv Patel. From the word go, the wicketkeeper-batsman injected urgency into the innings. Quick singles and regular boundaries not only kept the scoreboard ticking but released pressure off Panchal.
From 26/2, the Panchal-Patel stand took Gujarat to 89/2 at Lunch, with the former completing a hard-fought fifty. Parthiv, in particular, took the attack to the opposition.
Both put on a crucial 120 runs before Parthiv was snared by offie Arun Nandi. Gujarat lost their skipper but the platform was set for Panchal to play his natural game, and he didn’t disappoint.
The right-hander cut hard, drove elegantly and used his feet to perfection, especially against the spin of Karn Sharma. He was severe on the leggie — charging his tossed up deliveries, cutting and pulling the half-trackers.
If it wasn’t there to drive, he got to the pitch of the ball and drove it straight, and hard. After the complicated approach early in the innings, Panchal played with freedom and scored crucial runs in the process.
The hundred came up with an elegant drive through covers but just when he was looking to stay unbeaten till the end of day’s play, he threw it away in the 85th over — five before the umpires called stumps. A Nandi delivery was hit straight to ARB Singh in
Panchal’s dismissal towards the fag end of the day lifted their spirits. The opener’s 141 helped Gujarat reach 286/6 and they would look to add more on Day 2 with Manpreet Juneja (17*) and Rush Kalaria (10*) — the two unbeaten batsmen on Day 1.
Brief scores: Gujarat 286/6 (Panchal 141, Patel 58; Nandi 2/34).