The Ranji Trophy semifinal round concluded on June 18, with Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai sealing their places in the tournament’s summit clash in the coming week. While MP surpassed Bengal in an outright victory, Mumbai dominated Uttar Pradesh in a one-sided draw where they sailed through on the first-innings lead.
In the first of the two semis, MP won by an impressive margin of 174 runs after winning the toss and opting to bat first. On a typical Indian deck, where batting became progressively difficult, MP made scores of 341 and 281, either side of dismissing Bengal for 273 and 181, respectively.
Bowlers were the obvious stars of the whole act, but perhaps the most significant performance for MP came off the bat of opening batter Himanshu Mantri in the first-innings. Mantri made 165 off 327 deliveries and almost singlehandedly guided his team to a score in excess of 340. Akshat Raghuwanshi’s 63 was the next highest score for the innings.
Mantri, or Raghuwanshi, couldn’t replicate their performances in the second innings but MP found batting heroes in the form of Rajat Patidar (79) and Aditya Shrivastava (82), who stretched their first-innings lead of 68 runs to a target of 350 runs.
On the bowling front, MP had Kumar Kartikeya (3/61), Saransh Jain (3/63) and Puneet Datey (3/48) collectively running through Bengal in the first innings, where veteran batter Manoj Tiwary (102) and allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed (116) struck fighting hundreds but their team failed to reach the 300-mark.
In one of the most impressive allround displays, Shahbaz added a third-innings five-fer (5/79) to his tally for the game, having bagged figures of 3/86 in the first half.
Bengal skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran was the sole fighter in the final innings of the game, making a dogged 78 off 157 balls. But outside him, none of the Bengal batters could withstand the challenge presented by Karthikeya, who, too, added a five-fer (5/67) to his tally for the game.
In the other semifinal played in Bangalore, domestic powerhouse Mumbai overhauled UP in one of the more one-sided knock-out games played in the recent history of the Ranji Trophy. Asked to bat first after losing the toss, Mumbai pulverised the opposition by posting 393 and 533/4 declared, either side of dismissing them for just 180 runs.
Opening batter Yashasvi Jaiswal made a first-innings hundred (100) and backed that up with a marathon second-innings 181. Hardik Tamore (115) and Shams Mulani (50) in the first half and Armaan Jaffer (127), Sarfaraz Khan (59*), Mulani (51*) in the second half ably supported Jaiswal through the game.
Mumbai also had Tushar Deshpande (3/34), Mohit Avasthi (3/39) and Tanush Kotian (3/35) relishing their time out in the middle and running through the hapless UP batting line-up when the surface was still very good for batting. UP simply couldn’t withstand the pressure exerted by the Mumbai bowlers, losing regular wickets through their only innings.
In a sorry-looking scorecard, 48 from lower-order batter Shivam Mavi was the highest score for the innings, where only opener Madhav Kaushik (38) breached the 30-run mark amongst the rest. That poor batting effort effectively ended UP’s hopes of winning the trophy, especially as Mumbai decided to switch their brutal mode on.
The 41-time Ranji Trophy holders opted not to push their bowlers into the Karnataka heat, with the final scheduled for the next week, and just kept batting and batting, knowing they had the first-innings lead good enough to sail through in case of a drawn knock-out.