» Cricket » Shukla drives UP into Ranji final

Shukla drives UP into Ranji final

January 07, 2009 19:38 IST

Shivakant Shukla remained unconquered on a patient 178 to pilot Uttar Pradesh into the final of Ranji Trophy for the third time in four years in Nagpur on Wednesday.

Shukla's knock came off 569 balls, and in 821 minutes, earning him the distinction of fourth longest stay by a batsman in the middle. His effort was studded with 26 hits to the fence.

UP overhauled Tamil Nadu's first innings score of 445 to gain a vital two-run lead and declare at 447 for loss of eight wickets in the 192.3 overs at the VCA Stadium.

As Praveen Gupta (13 not out) struck a four off Laxmipathy Balaji in the ninth over wild celebration kicked off in the UP camp with skipper Mohd Kaif, Suresh Raina and other teammates rushing towards Shukla.

The team also gave Shukla a standing ovation acknowledging his unbeaten marathon batting effort.

The other three batting marathon batting efforts in first class cricket came from Rajeev Nayyar (1015 mts),  Hanif Mohammed (970 mts), and Gary Kirsten (878 mts). 

Shukla registered third century of his career and the second this season. He made 131 against Maharastra in the League stage. 

UP will take on 37-time champions Mumbai in the final at Hyderabad on January 12.

In the final analysis, it turned out to be battle of wits between former Indian paceman Balaji and Shukla. Balaji claimed 5 for 114 off 53.3 overs but Shukla's resolute defence proved too much the Tamil Nadu bowler.

Shukla's concentration lapsed just once when he was luckily spilled by Murali Vijay at 95 and then shared a match winning fourth wicket stand of 272 with Parminder Singh (138). 

Shukla, who completed his century on Tuesday, began sedately on the final morning and saw his overnight colleague Parminder completing his well deserved maiden century as they put UP on road to the all important lead.

Tamil Nadu bowlers, after failing to get an early breakthrough, managed to remove Parminder (130) when he attempted to slash Balaji in his second spell to be caught at point by Suresh Raina.

Balaji kept pegging away and soon had B K Singh (11) also caught by Vidyut Shivaramkrishnan trying to flick.

Off spinner R Ashwin (2-68) introduced into the attack soon lured Piyush Chawla (1) to be caught at mid on and later Praveen Kumar (11) holed out to mid wicket as UP slumped to 373 for loss of seven wickets.

Tamil Nadu skipper Dinesh Karthik, unable to dislodge Shukla, rotated his bowlers on a unresponsive fourth day wicket and time and again reverted to ever willing Balaji. 

Shukla showed excellent poise and temperament as he guided his side through tight corner in company of wicket keeper M I Khan. In the process, he duly completed his 150 with a fluent cover driven four and took control of the game. 

The pair put on a vital 48-run eighth wicket stand before Khan (21) snicked one behind off Balaji in first over of a new ball spell who in the process completing a outstanding  five wicket haul. 

Shukla revealed he played to a plan and followed his coaches advise to hang around till the very end. 

"Initially, I was slow but soon recovered to guide my side to the finals," he said.

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