Ranji Trophy Final: Wadkar, Neral leave Delhi in a spot

Keeping his cool in the first-ever Ranji Trophy final outing, Wadkar hammered a fine knock of unbeaten 133, helping Vidarbha pile up a first-innings lead of 233 runs at the Holkar Stadium here on Sunday.

Vidarbha batsman Akshay Wadkar celebrates his century on the third day of the Ranji Trophy final against Delhi in Indore on Sunday.   -  PTI

 

Akshay Wadkar may be just five games old, but the 23-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Vidarbha has already learnt how to deliver at the big stage.

Keeping his cool in the first-ever Ranji Trophy final outing, Wadkar hammered a fine knock of unbeaten 133, helping Vidarbha pile up a first-innings lead of 233 runs at the Holkar Stadium here on Sunday.

After making his debut against Goa in November, Wadkar has turned out to be a key batsman for Vidarbha lower down the order. Backing him fully was another young gun Siddhesh Neral, who too remained unbeaten on 56 — after two reprieves.

As it happened: Ranji Trophy Final , Day 3

With both the batsmen going steady, Vidarbha ended the day on 528-7. The effort of Wadkar is more commendable because it came at a time, when taking the crucial first innings lead looked tricky. With the veteran Wasim Jaffer heading back to the pavilion, Wadkar ensured that there was no slip-up. Resuming the day at 206-4, Vidarbha required 90 runs to outlast Delhi’s first innings total of 295. When Jaffer and night watchman Akshay Wakhare were at the crease, the mission seemed easy.

But things changed suddenly as Wakhare fell meekly for 28, followed by Jaffer. The highest-ever run scorer in the history of Ranji Trophy, Jaffer was trapped leg-before for 78. Vidarbha was at 246-6 then.

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With every possibility of the match turning in Delhi’s favour, Vidarbha needed a partnership to get going. And that’s where Wadkar came in. In a bid to ensure smooth flow of runs, he first stitched a 169-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Aditya Sarwate, who returned to the pavilion, scoring 79.

Delhi suffered a major blow as Manan Sharma suffered a knee injury, which almost makes him unavailable for the rest of the match. Trying to go for a dive, Manan suffered an injury on Saturday and things worsened on Sunday as he was seen heavily strapped on the knee.

It is learnt that the bowler is almost ruled out of the clash, which looks tilted towards Vidarbha.That's not all.

Gautam Gambhir too suffered a thumb injury while fielding on Sunday but he is cleared to bat in the second innings. While bowling, Navdeep Saini too pulled up a strain but he returned to action.

That was the turning point of the game.

Delhi was a let-down in the fielding department. While there were mix-ups, it failed to capitalise on a few easy chances. And Vidarbha batsmen took full advantage of that.

Before being caught behind the stumps by Rishabh Pant off Nitish Rana, Sarwate too ably supported Wadkar, with a few big shots. However, he got a life when he was dropped at the short leg. Even Pant missed out on a stumping, which was a sitter. Those lapses cost Delhi dear.

Akshay Wadkar may be just five games old, but the 23-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Vidarbha has already learnt how to deliver at the big stage.   -  R.V. MOORTHY

 

The Vidarbha juggernaut, however, did not stop even after Sarwate’s departure. With young gun Neral stepping up — scoring a quick-fire half century and adding 113-runs in the eighth wicket partnership with Wadkar, Vidarbha ensured that Delhi was pushed to the wall.

Delhi’s misfortune continued as Neral was saved twice after being dismissed by Kulwant Khejroliya. On both the occasions, it was a no-ball that saved the batsman —first in the 144th over and then in the 150th over. In the first instance, Neral — then on 34 — decided to cut it uppishly to third man, who had it easy. But the third umpire said the delivery was above the shoulder, and Neral was called back.

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When Neral was on 52, he was caught and bowled again by Khejroliya, only to be given a no-ball for overstepping.

If young skipper Rishabh Pant was left searching for answers, veteran Gautam Gambhir too could not figure out how to stop the rampaging Vidarbha batsmen.

Cricket remains a game of glorious uncertainties, but then, if there’s not a major change in the script, looks like Vidarbha already has one hand in the trophy.