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Ranji Trophy – Jalaj Saxena keeps shining; Cheteshwar Pujara, Khejroliya star in big wins

At 37, Saxena continues the good habit

The win against Bengal, however, may not be enough to fire them into the knockouts as the gulf between them and second-placed Andhra [in Group B] is a massive 11 points that they can’t bridge even if they secure a bonus-point win in their final group-stage fixture.

Saxena also contributed handy runs with the bat, notching up 40 and 37 in the two innings as Kerala won by 109 runs. After fast bowler MD Nidheesh picked up the first wicket, Saxena picked up the remaining nine wickets as he wheeled away unchanged for 21.1 overs. Bengal were bowled out for 180 to concede a lead of 183. Kerala then powered to 265 for 6 declared to set Bengal a target of 449, which proved way too many.

Abhimanyu Easwaran, who led India A during the unofficial Tests against England Lions, was the lone Bengal top-order batter to offer solidity. He ended the game with scores of 72 and 65 to end a string of inconsistent scores against the Lions. Shahbaz Ahmed, the Bengal allrounder, made 80 in the second innings.
Like Kerala, Bengal too are out of the running for a knockouts. It’s increasingly looking like toppers Mumbai, who scraped out a draw after clinching a thrilling one-run lead over Chhattisgarh, and Andhra will be the two qualifiers from Group B.
Like Saxena, Railways’ left-arm-spinner Akash Pandey also picked up nine wickets in an innings as Goa lost by 63 runs in Surat. Chasing 306, Goa were handily placed at 142 for 3 before Pandey hastened their collapse. Suyash Prabhudessai, who has already struck three hundreds this season, resisted with 67, but there was little support from the rest of the batting group.
The win takes Railways to fourth in Group C, and keeps them in the hunt for an unlikely knockout berth as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, who played out a thriller in Chepauk, are the front-runners to qualify from this pool.

Khejroliya hat-trick floors Baroda

Kulwant Khejroliya, the left-arm fast bowler, became only the third bowler in Ranji Trophy history to pick up four wickets in four balls as Madhya Pradesh secured a bonus-point win over Baroda to all but secure a berth in the knockouts. Delhi’s Shankar Saini and Jammu & Kashmir’s Mohammed Mudhasir have previously achieved this feat.

Khejroliya, who moved before the season from Delhi, ended with match figures of 7 for 57. Five of those, including the hat trick, came in the second innings after Baroda were made to follow on. Having gone wicketless in 11 overs, Khejroliya struck in his 12th to remove Shashwat Rawat, Mahesh Pithiya, Bhargav Bhatt and Akash Singh. Khejroliya dismissed Atit Sheth three overs later to pick up his fifth as MP secured victory.

Despite the defeat, Baroda are still placed second in Group D and are only three points adrift of toppers Madhya Pradesh. Jammu & Kashmir, unbeaten after six games, are still in with a slim chance at third after they beat Puducherry by 19 runs in defence of a modest 86.

Jayant, Tewatia impress; Pujara scores big for Saurashtra

Vidarbha fortified their position at the top of Group A with a bonus-point victory over Maharashtra. At the same time, Saurashtra strengthened their position by jumping to third, following a 218-run win over Rajasthan.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Sheldon Jackson hit hundreds to help open up a big first-innings score, before Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, the left-arm-spinner, came into his own to pick up a 12-for in the match. Seven of those came in the second innings as Saurashtra defended 306 in style; Rajasthan were bundled out for 87.
The win takes Saurashtra within two points of second-placed Haryana with one match to play. Incidentally, Haryana didn’t do their chances any harm as they crushed Jharkhand by an innings and 205 runs, with Rahul Tewatia making 144. With the ball, offspinner Jayant Yadav picked up five wickets in each innings to seal victory.

Elsewhere, Hyderabad and Meghalaya earned a promotion to the Elite pool for the next season after securing an entry into the final of the Plate League. Hyderabad are unbeaten after five games, while Meghalaya have three wins and two losses.

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