Pankajís five gives team innings lead

Chasing Rajasthan's 222, it was going according to plan for Punjab when they were 195 for five. Overnight batsman Ravi Inder Singh (85) and Rahul Sharma were in the middle of a repair job and were just 28 runs away from the first innings lead.

But Rajasthan pacer Ritu Raj Singh got the big fish, getting through the defenses of Ravi Inder and senior compatriot Pankaj Singh then ran through the tail, claiming Amitoze Singh (0), Siddarth Kaul (1) and Sandeep Sharma (8). Rituraj claimed Rahul Sharma in between, as the runaway Group A leaders lost their final five wickets for 20 runs. Punjab were bowled out for 215, just seven short of Rajasthan's first innings score.

Early breakthrough

In the morning, it was left-arm pacer Aniket Chaudhary who broke through for Rajasthan, sending back the overnight batsman Karan Goel. Skipper Mandeep Singh added 50 with Ravi Inder before Pankaj Singh bowled the former. When Chaudhary sent the in form Uday Kauló he has averaged 372 this season ó back in the next over, Punjab were 87/4.

But Ravi Inder and Gurkeerat added 89 runs, taking Punjab to within 46 runs with six wickets in hand. Gurkeerat nicked an outgoing Anket delivery to wicker-keeper Dishant Yagnik but the incoming batsman Rahul Sharma proved stubborn at one end, lasting almost an hour.

Late collapse

In his company, Ravi Inder helped Punjab inch further close, before Rituraj sent Ravi Inder back to trigger the collapse. In conditions that favoured them, the pace bowling trio of Pankaj Singh Aniket and Rituraj shared the ten wickets, with Pankaj picking up his second five-for of the season, and 16th in 65 first class matches.

The tall fast bowler has 21 wickets in four games this season, taking his usual place among the top wicket takers of the season.

... contd.

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