Century No. 5 for Jiwanjot, Punjab close in on semis

Unless something very dramatic happens on the last day, Punjab have booked their place in the Ranji Trophy semifinals after eight years. At close of play on Day Four, Punjab had taken a 34-run first-innings lead with seven wickets in hand.

Jiwanjot Singh laid a solid foundation with his fifth century of the season; Taruwar Kohli, in his first match for the state team in more than a year, made a bold statement with an unbeaten ton; and Mandeep Singh also batted well for 95 to more or less slam the door shut on Jharkhand.

The hosts must have sniffed a chance after scoring 401 in their first innings. But on this Keenan Stadium pitch the ball did very little even on the fourth day. The bowling, moreover, was very friendly except for skipper Shahbaz Nadeem, who bowled 57 overs and took two of the three Punjab wickets that fell, with his left-arm spin.

After so many hours were lost on the first two days, this quarterfinal had pretty much become a first-innings contest. Resuming on their overnight 150/1, the visitors took the lead deep into the final session and finished at 435/3 with Kohli batting on 152. Mandeep was out on the last ball of the day and missed what could have been a well-deserved century by five runs.

National selector Roger Binny, who was present at the ground, must have taken note of Jiwanjot's innings. In his first season in first-class cricket, the young opener has already taken his tally to 916 runs in 15 innings at 70.46. It's too early to say if the 22-year-old could be a solution to India's opening woes. But Jiwanjot gives hope.

Fresh guard

The best thing about him was his patience and attitude. He took fresh guard after reaching his hundred, aiming to play a long innings. But an arm ball from Nadeem did him in when he was on 131.

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