Round four of the Ranji Trophy season culminated with some keenly-fought contests and a number of eye-catching performances with the bat as well as the ball.
Karnataka’s Mayank Agarwal produced the season’s third triple century. Mumbai’s Prithvi Shaw smashed his fourth ton in five first-class games. Cheteshwar Pujara broke a long-standing national record with a fine double ton. Ashok Dinda picked up another five-for and Karun Nair kept his India aspirations alive with his second century in as many matches. Piyush Chawla has also been in fine form this season and picked up his third consecutive five-wicket haul.
Here’s a look at the highlights of round four.
Third triple ton of the season
Karnataka’s Mayank Agarwal smashed his first triple century in first-class cricket as Karnataka registered their second consecutive win.
Agarwal notched up an unbeaten 304 off 494 balls that included 28 fours and four sixes. The effort helped Karnataka declare on a mammoth 628/5 in their first innings against Maharashtra, paving the way for an eventual innings and 136-run victory.
The big knock came at an opportune time for the 26-year-old. He had not seen the runs flowing from his bat off late and averaged a poor 23.66 from his previous seven Ranji matches. The feat followed a pair in Karnataka’s previous game against Hyderabad in Shimoga.
Under pressure to keep his place in the Ranji outfit safe, the opening batsman produced a fine display of batsmanship to not only set up victory for his side, but also lift the pressure that was weighing on on him.
“My captain, team-mates and coaches told me not to lose heart when I was down. That backing meant a lot when the chips were down. In fact, I did get very emotional when CM (Gautam) hugged me and said, ‘Well done. Proud of you.’ I’m grateful I have elder brothers in the team and cricket fraternity who always have a word of encouragement when I need it the most,” an emotional Agarwal was quoted as saying after his knock.
Prithvi’s fourth ton in five FC games
In-form teenage opener Prithvi Shaw slammed his fourth century in five first-class matches as Mumbai notched up its first outright victory of the season.
The 17-year old, who has been talked of highly ever since he made his debut in the last season, struck a breezy 105 studded with 18 boundaries and added 136 valuable runs for the second wicket with experienced Ajinkya Rahane (49).
So far, among the Indian batsmen, only one player had more first-class hundreds before the age of 18 - maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who had seven three figure scores.
Shaw announced his arrival in Ranji Trophy by scoring a century on debut against Tamil Nadu in the semifinal in the 2016-’17 season.
The youngster now has two hundreds to his credit in as many games for the 41-time Ranji champions.
Not only has Shaw led Mumbai’s batting this season, his knock of 105 against Odisha in Bhubaneshwar came on a track that helped seamer and even stalwarts such as Rahane were on edge.
The youngster’s fine performances with India A and during the Duleep Trophy has already raised hopes for an India call-up.
Pujara’s record double ton
Cheteshwar Pujara warmed up nicely for the Sri Lanka Test series with a patient double hundred as Saurashtra registered a six-wicket win over Jharkhand.
Pujara scored 204 off 355 balls hitting 28 boundaries in the process. He was a picture of concentration, batting close to 9 and half hours (566 minutes), and was the ninth Saurashtra batsman to be dismissed in their first innings.
This was Pujara’s 12th double ton in first-class cricket. It helped him surpass a tally of 11 held by India great Vijay Merchant.
The knock came at a good time for Pujara, who had gone without a half-century in his last 10 first-class innings.
Speaking with the The Field after end of day’s play, Pujara said the record was just a reflection of the hard work he was putting in to improve his game.
“Personally it is a big achievement to surpass some great names,” Pujara said. “Even Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid had around 10 first-class double hundreds to their name. It is an honour and a great achievement,” he added.
Dinda’s fiery five-for
Ashok Dinda is a man on fire at the moment. After a 10-wicket haul against Chhattisgarh, the Bengal pacer picked up eight wickets in his side’s game against Himachal Pradesh at the Eden Gardens.
His fiery effort broke the Himachal batting order in the first innings, in which he picked up a five wickets.
In the lead up to the game, there was buzz that a seaming wicket was in the offing for both the sides. However, as the game started, it became pretty evident that conditons were not as bowler-friendly as being made out to be. Dinda, though, produced a fiery spell that led to a flurry of wickets despite the conditions at hand.
Dinda began the season on a quiet note, picking up just one wicket in his side’s opener against Services. Since then though the former India pacer has been a man on a mission. He has led Bengal’s pacer attack this season, even upstaging India regular Mohammed Shami.
At 33, an India recall does seem unlikely, but if he keeps churning out such eye-catching performances, the selectors might be intrigued enough to give him a look in.
Back-to-back tons for Karun Nair
Karun Nair kept his hopes of an India return alive and kicking with his second century in as many games for Karnataka.
Karun is one of only two Indian players to have smashed a triple century in Tests, but his performances since then have hardly been eye-catching. The 25-year-old, though, seems to be hitting his stride in the domestic circuit and his recent form has surely put him on the right track for a comeback.
His 116 against Maharashtra comes days after a fine 134-run knock against Hyderabad. Both tons have come in a winning cause for Karnataka.
“It was nice to get back-to-back hundreds in the Ranji Trophy,” Karun told Sportstar after the game. “It’s important for me to convert my starts into big scores. I want to ensure that I am ready when I get an opportunity to play for India again.”
The competition for a spot in the Indian team has become stiff of late and Nair will have to churn out more such knocks if he hopes to climb up the ladder.
Piyush Chawla’s resurgence
The former India spinner has been in fine form in this edition of the Ranji Trophy. With 26 wickets, he is now placed second in the top wickets-takers list. The Uttar Pradesh bowler, who is playing for Gujarat this season, was once again on point, picking up a nine-wicket match haul in his side’s 238-run win over Haryana.
The effort included a five-wicket haul, his third in as many games this season. Chawla, who last played for India in 2012 is out of the reckoning with a host of young tweakers vying for a place in the Indian team across the three formats.
At 28, Chawla has age on his side and if his recent performances are anything to go by, it could even lead to a surprise call-up. For now Chawla is letting his work do the talking.
Led by his heroics, Gujarat have now won all three of its games played so far. The leg-spinner has been at the forefront in each game and has delivered nearly every time he has been handed the ball this season.