Splendid bowling by medium pacers Sudip Tyagi (3/24) and Praveen Kumar (2/39) guided Uttar Pradesh to the brink of victory on the second day of their five-day Ranji Trophy semi-final match against Saurashtra, being played at the Motibaug Palace Cricket Ground in Vadodara on Sunday.
Chasing a relatively easy victory target of 162, after Uttar Pradesh were skittled out for a paltry 100 in 44.1 overs in their second essay, Saurashtra were tottering at 93 for 7 when stumps were drawn for the day.
Saurashtra, which made it to the Ranji semi-finals after a gap of 27 years, now face an uphill task of scoring another 69 runs on a docile wicket for their dream victory with three wickets in hand.
Although Saurashtra conceded a 61-run lead to Uttar Pradesh earlier in the day by folding up their first innings at 127, their hope to make it to the final suffered a severe jolt when Tyagi struck two early blows removing skipper Jaydev Shah and Kanaiya Vaghela without score in his very first over.
Thereafter, UP skipper Mohammad Kaif set up a very attacking fielding and the bowlers roared back like wounded tigers to send their opponents struggling at 63 for seven in 31.3 overs.
Having pushed Saurashtra back to the wall, UP who were hoping to wrap up the match in the remaining 13 overs, were frustrated as veteran Sitanshu Kotak (batting on 41) and Kamlesh Makvana (batting on 9) stood on their way by putting on 30 runs in their unbeaten eighth wicket stand.
While Kotak, who is the season's top scorer, hit 41 with three fours from 85 balls, Makvana's 9 off 40 balls included one boundary.
Like the opening day's play, in which 18 wickets tumbled, bowlers dominated the proceedings for the second day too as 19 more wickets perished.
Earlier, resuming at their overnight score of 116 for 8, Saurashtra folded up at 127 in four overs, conceding 61 runs as first innings lead on Uttar Pradesh.
In their second essay, UP did not survive long as Saurashtra spinners -- Rakesh Dhruv (5/20) and Kamlesh Makvana (2/14) -- sent their opponents packing at 100, forty-six minutes before tea.
Suresh Raina top scored for Uttar Pradesh with 25 studded with four boundaries, while seven others, including skipper Kaif (8) could not even reach double figure.
National selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, who is here to watch the match, was visibly upset with the spineless batting of both the team members.
When asked, chief ground curator Vasudev Patel pooh poohed allegation of Motibaug being an underprepared wicket, saying it would take time for the boys to cope with seamer-friendly wicket.
Uttar Pradesh (1st innings): 188
Saurashtra (1st innings, overnight 116/8):
K Vaghela c Kaif b P Kumar 0
J Shah lbw b Tyagi 57
S Kotak lbw b P Kumar 0
C Pujara b Tyagi 2
S Jogiyani b P Kumar 14
N Rathod c R Shukla b B Kumar 4
F Bambhaniya lbw b B Kumar 0
R Dhurv lbw b P Kumar 26
K Makvana b Tyagi 0
S Jobanputra b Tyagi 17
S Maniar not out 4
Extras: (b 1, lb 2) 3
Total: (all out in 37.3 overs) 127
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-4, 3-7, 4-38, 5-61, 6-61, 7-87, 8-87, 9-121, 10-127
Bowling: P Kumar 12.3-4-40-4, S Tyagi 13-2-49-4, B Kumar 6-0-23-2, P Chawla 6-2-12-0
Uttar Pradesh (2nd innings):
R Srivastava lbw b Maniar 14
A Khan b Dhurv 22
S Raina lbw b Makvana 25
M Kaif c Jogiyani b Makvana 8
R Shukla c Kotak b Dhurv 0
P Chawla c Dhurv b Jobanputra 10
B Kumar b Dhurv 5
P Kumar b Dhurv 2
R Elahi b Dhurv 5
P Gupta c Jogiyani b Maniar 1
S Tyagi not out 0 2 0 0 0
Extras: (b 4, lb 2, nb 2) 8
Total: (all out in 44.1 overs) 100
Fall of wickets: 1-23, 2-59, 3-67, 4-69, 5-79, 6-82, 7-86, 8-99, 9-100, 10-100
Bowling: S Jobanputra 12-5-20-1, S Maniar 10.1-5-20-2, K Vaghela 3-0-20-0, R Dhurv 14-7-20-5, K Makvana 5-1-14-2
Saurashtra (2nd innings):
S Jogiyani lbw b B Kumar 13
J Shah c Amir Khan b Tyagi 0
K Vaghela c Amir Khan b Tyagi 0
C Pujara c Amir Khan b Tyagi 9
S Kotak not out 41
N Rathod c Raina b P Kumar 13
R Dhurv c & b Gupta 1
F Bambhaniya lbw b P Kumar 0
K Makvana not out 9
Extras: (b 1, lb 4, w 2) 7
Total: (for 7 wickets in 45 overs) 93
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-2, 3-25, 4-25, 5-49, 6-50, 7-63
Bowling: P Kumar 16-1-39-2, S Tyagi 14-5-24-3, B Kumar 8-2-12-1, P Gupta 5-2-10-1, P Chawla 2-0-3-0