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Bhajji lifts struggling Punjab

Ashok Dinda and Sourav Ganguly, at Eden Gardens, on Wednesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh

Vadodara: Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh made a superb return to competitive cricket as he smashed 92 off only 80 balls to rescue his team from a precarious position against an impressive Jammu and Kashmir bowling attack on the first day of the Ranji Trophy quarter final here on Wednesday.

Punjab scored a decent 304 in their first innings as Harbhajan and No. 9 batsman Sandeep Sharma (51) added an invaluable 105 runs for the eighth wicket after J&K seam trio of Samiullah Beigh (2/56), Ram Dayal (3/59) and Umar Nazir (4/66) reduced them to 146 for seven.

At stumps, J&K were 11 for one after opener Obaid Haroon (4) edged one from Sandeep to wicketkeeper Gitansh Khera.

Using the helpful conditions, J&K bowlers — especially seamer Dayal caused a lot of discomfort for Punjab’s top-order batsmen including Yuvraj Singh (10) but the more experienced Punjab team finally wriggled out of trouble.

Coming back after a shoulder niggle that kept him out for more than six weeks, Harbhajan clobbered eight fours and six sixes in his 80-ball knock before he was out trying to slog sweep opposite Parvez Rasool over short fine leg.

It was a duel between two offies in which Harbhajan clearly emerged as the winner over his talented younger opponent.

Harbhajan in fact punished Rasool hitting him for five sixes in seven balls with a couple that landed outside the Moti Baug ground over deep mid-wicket fence.

Two more were hit over sightscreen clearing the ground while another was also hit towards the deep end. Rasool had a poor outing with the ball as he went for 64 runs in 13 overs.

In Mumbai, Suryakumar Yadav notched up a timely, counter-attacking hundred to steer defending champions Mumbai to 306 for seven against Maharashtra in their quarter-final match at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.

Coming in to bat when Mumbai were tottering at 101 for four after lunch, Yadav (120) and Vinit Indulkar (82), playing his first match for Mumbai after returning to its fold following a three-season stint with Himachal Pradesh, hit back in style to help the hosts steady the boat.

Maharashtra bounced back late in the day when medium pacer Anupam Sanklecha dismissed both the batsmen, while Samad Fallah took the wicket of Shardul Thakur (4).

At stumps, Iqbal Abdulla (9 not out) and captain Zaheer Khan (5 not out) were at the crease.

Meanwhile, Karnataka rode twin centuries from Robin Uthappa and Karun Nair to post a competitive 297/5 on the first day against Uttar Pradesh, in Bangalore.

Karnataka were in deep trouble when three wickets fell in quick succession to reduce them to 15 for the loss of three wickets. But then Uthappa and Nair shared a 120-run partnership to rescue the side.