Kolkata, March 15: Jharkhand took a massive 591-run first innings lead but decided to bat again instead of enforcing follow-on as their Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinal against Plate group toppers Nagaland dragged on the penultimate day at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
Having virtually sealed the last-eight berth by virtue of their first innings lead, Jharkhand posted 132/2 in their second essay, for an overall lead of 723 runs going into the final day.
Opener Utkarsh Singh remained unbeaten on 50 from 106 deliveries, laced with six boundaries as Jharkhand continued to use the match for some “batting practice”, having notched a tall 880 in the first innings.
“What was the need for going for an outright win, when a first innings lead was enough for us to qualify (for quarterfinal),” Jharkhand skipper Saruabh Tiwary defended their marathon batting practice against the ordinary-looking Nagaland attack.
“We would have definitely gone for a win, had it been the condition to qualify for the knockout.”
Tiwary said the more important thing for them was to give their young batters the much-needed batting practice to boost their confidence ahead of a tough quarterfinal match.
“Throughout the season, we did not get any batting-friendly wickets. So this was a perfect opportunity for our batters to get some runs before playing the quarterfinal.
“Our team is full of youngsters, so the idea was to give them some batting practice. It will be a tough quarterfinal against a more experienced side, but they will be ready, energy level will be right up there to face the rigours of a five-day match,” he said.
The wicket may have drawn some criticism for being a flat one, but curator Sujan Mukherjee blamed it on Nagaland’s poor fielding as a slew of catches were dropped.
“What can I do, if they continue to drop catches — there were more than a dozen of them and Jharkhand made the best use of it,” Mukherjee said.
“Yes, the wicket was helping the batters, but the pacers also got some help early on and there was good carry but they (Nagaland) could not seize on the opportunities.”
The star of the day, however, was Nagaland’s wicketkeeper batter Chetan Bist who hit a resolute 122 not out.
Having stood behind the stumps for 203 overs earlier in Jharkhand’s first innings, Bist held the fort as only three other Nagaland batters could notch double figures.
Earlier, resuming at 130/4, Nagaland lost two wickets within the opening hour when left-arm seamer Sushant Mishra accounted for Abu Nechim (32) and Imliwati Lemtur (4).
Wickets kept on falling at the other end but Bist stayed unbeaten as they were bundled out for 289 in 103.3 overs. (PTI)
Jharkhand 880 and 132/2; 37 overs (Utkarsh Singh 50, Nazim Siddiqui 42). Nagaland 289; 103.3 overs (Chetan Bist 122 not out, Shrikant Mundhe 39, Abu Nechim 32; Shahbaz Nadeem 3/70). Jharkhand lead by 723 runs.