Suresh Raina hit an aggressive 91 in his first first-class match after a brief illness-related lay-off as Uttar Pradesh sniffed victory over Railways on the third and penultimate match of their Group A Ranji Trophy cricket match here today. Raina, who did not play in the New Zealand ODI series after being named in the India squad due to an illness, played a captain's knock to help UP score 330 all out in their second innings at the SCA Stadium. Raina hit nine fours and two sixes in his 106-ball innings.
His innings is expected to draw attention of national selectors when they pick the Indian team for the home ODI series against England next month. Kuldeep Yadav (19), who was sent as night-watchman yesterday, hung around for 17 overs in the morning and added 37 runs to overnight 64 for 2 along with Shivam Chaudhary (124). After Kuldeep was dismissed at the team score of 101, UP scored at 4.77 per over from that point with Raina leading from the front. His partnership of 140 with Chaudhary, who scored his maiden first-class century, helped swell the lead before they were bowled out for 330. Chasing a stiff victory target of 377, Railways were reduced to 35 for 5 at stumps today as they suffered a top-order collapse. Railways captain Karn Sharma returned with a five-wicket haul (5/71), including the scalp of Raina, but his side stared at a defeat after the flop show by his batsmen. UP medium-pacer Praveen Kumar, playing his first match of the season, took wickets in consecutive overs to reduce Railways to 4 runs for 2 in the third over. Railways could not quite recover from this as they went on the defensive, and crawled to 35 for 5 in 27 overs at the close of play today. Only opener Shivakant Shukla (13) could reach double digit score out of the five Railways batsmen dismissed so far. Wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat (3 runs off 43 balls) was batting with Karn (7 runs off 33 balls) at stumps. Railways now require another 342 runs for a win with five second innings wickets in hand. Brief Scores: Uttar Pradesh: 259 & 330 all out in 90 overs (Shivam Chaudhary 124, Suresh Raina 91; Karn Sharma 5/71). Railways 213 & 35 for 5 in 27 overs.
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