Ranji: Mumbai crushes Saurashtra to win 41st title

Shardul Thakur's five wickets reduced Saurashtra to 115 in the second innings, giving Mumbai an innings victory. Mumbai now has 41 Ranji titles, the most in the history.

Mumbai players celebrate the fall of Saurashtra's last wicket, Hardik Rathod.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Mumbai stamped its authority on the domestic cricket circuit yet again with an exceptional performance in two sessions that turned the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra on its head. It recorded its 41st title beating Saurashtra by an innings and 21 runs on the third day itself.

> Sachin Tendulkar: "Shardul (Thakur) has as worked hard on his fitness to strengthen the muscles and body. He has the true potential to play higher class of cricket."

Starting the day with a narrow lead of 27 runs and Siddhesh Lad having just the last two men for company, the game was in balance at the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s stadium in Gahunje.

> Full scorecard

However, Lad’s audacious batting, aided by No. 11 Balwinder Singh Sandhu, first took the game away from Saurashtra in the morning session. And the four-pronged Mumbai pace attack dismantled Saurashtra's batting in the afternoon, with Mumbai completing the formalities 29 minutes after tea.

Such strong was the onslaught of a young Mumbai outfit that Saurashtra crumbled even before realising that the game was being taken away from it. What worked against Saurashtra was again a dropped catch, much like Thursday, with Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip being the culprit this time around.

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Pujara, filling in for captain Jaydev Shah (who didn’t take the field due to a bug), dropped an easy catch off Lad’s edg. Lad was on 24 then, with the lead being 36.

By the time Lad’s top-edged swat was pouched by Sheldon Jackson running in from the deep on the on-side off Unadkat a little over an hour later, Lad and Sandhu had added exactly 100 runs to Mumbai’s total.

Such was the ferocity of Lad’s attack that it left Saurashtra bowlers and its skipper Pujara lost for ideas. He took on Unadkat, who was bowling well, and rattled him with the attack. The fact that four of his five sixes were struck against Unadkat shows the kind of form he was in.

Even though he missed his century by 12 runs, Lad along with Sandhu put Mumbai in a strong position.

Sandhu, who was preferred over Shardul Thakur as Dhawal Kulkarni’s new-ball partner, trapped Avi Barot in front of the wickets with a trademark incoming delivery in the fourth over. Kulkarni joined in three overs hence, forcing Sagar Jogiyani to glide one to Bhavin Thakkar at third slip.

At 23 for two, Saurashtra went in to the tea break with its hopes firmly pinned on Pujara to at least take the game into the penultimate day. But Thakur’s raw pace, Kulkarni’s movement and Sandhu and Abhishek Nayar’s accuracy rattled Saurashtra in the third session. Once Thakur got the prize scalp of Pujara, Mumbai was smelling victory.

Wickets kept tumbling as Mumbai snared six for 74 in the second session on a greenish track. The formalities were completed when Thakur cleaned up last man Hardik Rathod to complete a deserving five-wicket haul.