Pacers put Punjab back on track against Rajasthan
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They say the transition from the Under 19 level to first-class cricket is the most difficult. But Sandeep Sharma has made it look easy. He has taken 29 wickets this season in a year in which he was also part of India's junior World Cup-winning squad.
On Monday he bowled another good spell — picking up 5 for 57 in Rajasthan's second innings — to put Punjab in line for their fourth outright win of the season.
The young medium-pacers, Sandeep and Siddharth Kaul, have been Punjab's strength this season. They have used the seamer-friendly conditions to good effect. To their credit they have not got carried away and have stuck to their strengths.
Both have got the ball to swing enough to keep the batsmen in two minds. And their ability to pierce through batting line-ups have helped Punjab look dominant this season.
Punjab had conceded a seven-run lead on Sunday but once again their seamers brought the team back into the game. Sandeep and Siddharth (2 for 48), assisted by Baltej Singh (3 for 59) helped Punjab bowl Rajasthan out for 194 in their second innings.
Set a target of 204 for a win, Punjab finished at 149 for one at stumps on the penultimate day. Jiwanjot Singh, batting on 80, had scored a double century and a century in his first two games, looks well-placed to score his third.
Giving him company is Ravi Inder Singh, batting on 34. Punjab need just another 55 runs to gain six points from this game.
But the match was set-up by Sandeep. He has great control over his in-swingers and four of his five wickets were bagged using this particular delivery. The plan was to make the batsmen play shots, said Sandeep.