Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel turned to his most experienced bowler RP Singh towards the fag end of the day’s play. The visitors were on a leather hunt for close to two sessions now, and Patel wanted a wicket.
He had tried different combinations but nothing had worked. In the 50th over of the Railways’ innings, the second ball to be precise, RP attacked the stumps and opener Saurabh, batting on a fluent 93, was hit on the pads in line with the stumps. Gujarat fielders appealed in unison and up went the finger. Railways lost their opener, two overs before stumps.
Chants of ‘RP bhaiya’ grew louder and after the struggle for 49 overs, Gujarat came back to life. Jasprit Bumrah — RP’s new-ball partner — was bending his back from the end, and he too was rewarded.
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The seamer was generating decent bounce off the strip and after attacking the good length spot for most of his spell, he got one to rise from around the same spot. Facing the delivery was Railways’ No.3 Faiz Ahmad, who got into an awkward position for the pull, and could only manage a glove to Patel behind stumps. The hosts lost their set pair, after a chanceless 95-run stand, in the space of six deliveries.
In top rhythm, RP marked his run-up for the final over of the day’s play. Both camps were on the edge of their seats and RP’s masterclass ended Gujarat’s day on a high. Bowling the 52nd over to nightwatchman Anureet Singh, RP came around the stumps and delivered a peach. The delivery, coming in with the angle, pitched on middle-off and straightened enough to beat the batsman’s tentative forward-defensive shot and clip the bails. From 168/1, Railways collapsed to 168/4 in just 12 deliveries.
Frustrating day for bowlers
Apart from the brief period towards the end, bowlers struggled on Day 2 of this Group B contest. The wicket, still wearing the green look, had nothing in it for both seamers and spinners, and only variable bounce came into play, that too on few occasions.
In the morning session, Railways received the first dose of frustration when the Gujarat tail, led by Rush Kalaria, added a substantial 101 runs to the team’s total. Rush played like a proper batsman — composed stance, assured footwork and perfect timing. Wickets tumbled at the other end with Anureet sticking to the success formula on this pitch — keep attacking the stumps — but Rush would hold his own.
He first added 51 runs with Mehul Patel and then another 40 with Bumrah, who scored only two out of those. Rush scored his fifty in the process and remained unbeaten on 80 when Anureet took the final wicket — his fourth — of Bumrah.
The Gujarat lower-order helped the side reach a decent total and it was now upon the same lot — the tail-enders — to deliver for the team, this time with the ball.
That however, didn’t happen, as Railways openers Saurabh and Ashish Singh put on a solid 73 before a Mehul delivery kept very low to get the former out lbw. Next man in Faiz Ahmad was solid in the 79 deliveries he played and the post lunch session went to the home side. Openers, unlike Gujarat’s, were scoring at a decent clip. They were heading towards a big total before RP triggered a collapse towards the end.
Brief scores: Gujarat 387 (Priyank Panchal 141, Rush Kalaria 80 n.o.; Anureet Singh 4/91) vs Railways 168/4 (Saurabh Wakaskar 93; RP Singh 2/43)