Mohali: Punjab closed in on an outright victory against defending champions Rajasthan after pacer Sandeep Sharma ripped through the opposition batting line-up with a five-wicket haul on the third and penultimate day of their Group A Ranji Trophy match on Monday.
Although Rajasthan took a paltry seven-run first innings lead after scoring 222 and then reducing Punjab to 215, the visitors were bundled out for a mere 196 in their second essay to give their opposition an easy 204-run target for victory.
At stumps on day three, Punjab were comfortably placed at 149 for one, needing just another 55 runs with nine wickets in hand to register their fourth outright win in five outings.
Opener Jiwanjot Singh and Ravi Inder Singh were unbeaten on 80 and 34, respectively.
Karan Goel lost his wicket to Aniket Choudhary for 28.
Earlier, Rajasthan after resuming the day on 56 for one, kept losing wickets at regular intervals, even as Punjab bowlers wreaked havoc.
Sandeep emerged as the wrecker-in-chief with figures of five for 57, while Baltej Singh (3/59) claimed three and Siddarth Kaul took two for 48.
Overnight batsman Vineet Saxena, resuming on 16, top-scored for Rajasthan with 41 runs.
Other notable contributors for the visiting team were Rashmi Parida (33) and Rajesh Bishnoi (27).
Rajasthan: 222 & 196 all out in 58.2 overs (Vineet Saxena 41, Rashmi Parida 33; Sandeep Sharma 5/57, Baltej Singh 3/59).
Punjab: 215 & 149 for one in 41 overs (Jiwanjot Singh batting 80, Ravi Inder Singh batting 34).