By virtue of the first innings lead, Saurashtra had already booked the semifinal spot in the Ranji Trophy for the second consecutive season. On Day 5, it became official. Chasing an impossible target of 710, Andhra settled for a draw finishing at 149/4 at the CSR Sharma College Ground.
Saurashtra resumed at 375/9 and did not declare till the last wicket fell. Skipper Jaydev Unadkat (31 off 48 balls; 4x2, 6x1) had a lovely day in office for the valuable batting practice. He finally fell to Karan Shinde, caught by D.B. Prashant, when the scoreboard read 426.
Initially, Andhra openers C. R. Gnaneshwar (29 off 76; 4x3) and Prashanth (18 off 22; 4x2, 6x1) scored at almost five an over but the task ahead was monumental. After two fours and a six, Prashanth fell while trying to smash Dharmendrasinh Jadeja out of the park; Unadkat took a blinder at long off.
The never-say-die Gnaneshwar and Jyothi Sai Krishna (16 off 61; 4x3) batted for 15 more overs before Prerak Mankad’s spell broke the middle-order. The seamer ended Gnaneshwaar’s resistance, caught by Vishvaraj Jadeja, and trapped Sai Krishna in front of the stumps.
This is when Saurashtra started experimenting. Sheldon Jackson and Unadkat — who did not bowl a single delivery — had left the field of play. Regular ‘keeper Avi Barot bowled a few off-breaks, while Harvik Desai stood behind the stumps. Even Arpit Vasavada (slow left-arm orthodox) and Vishvaraj (seam) tested the Andhra batsmen. Desai got a lucky stumping too. Ricky Bhui — 1 off 18 — missed Jadeja’s line and the ‘keeper dislodged the bails in fraction of a second.
K. S. Bharat 55* off 69 (6x4, 6x1) and Shinde 27 off 61 (4x3) added 83 runs for the fifth wicket.
Right-hander Bharat swept, drove and cut with elegance against spinners and at the stroke of tea, both the sides decided that they had had enough.
Saurashtra will meet Gujarat in the semifinal in Rajkot starting February 29.
Brief scores: Saurashtra 419 & 426 (P. Mankad 85, D. Jadeja 60, A. Barot 54; J. Sai Krishna 4/74) drew with Andhra 136/9 & 149/4 (K.S. Bharat 55*; P. Mankad 2/8)
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