Ranji Trophy final: Akash Deep leads Bengal fightback

Avi Barot, Vishvaraj Jadeja fifties light up Saurashtra; Akash Deep picks up three wickets to stand tall.

Saurashtra batsman Vishvaraj Jadeja after being bowled by Akash Deep.   -  Vijay Soneji

With no tinge of grass or wind to assist the Bengal fast bowlers, Saurashtra batted decently well – perhaps slightly slower than the usual tempo – to finish at 206/5 on day one of the Ranji Trophy final at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot.

Opting to bat, Harvik Desai (38) and Avi Barot (54) added 82 runs for the first wicket in 225 balls. The partnership, however, could have ended earlier. Anustup Majumdar, at first slip, dropped Desai on 22 off pacer Akash Deep. He stuck his hand out but failed to latch on to the chance and in the process, got injured. He immediately left the field as a precautionary measure.

Saurashtra vs Bengal final, Day 1: Blog

A few balls later, slow left-arm orthodox bowler Shahbaz Ahmed almost got Barot but it fell short of Ishan Porel at deep.

But it was Shahbaz who drew first blood for Bengal. Bowling disciplined lengths since morning, he was rewarded for confusing Desai with the flight and bounce. The young batsman didn’t know whether to play it or leave it. Substitute fielder Abhishek Raman’s sharp reaction fetched Bengal the wicket.

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Akash finally struck to remove Barot. It was a clear edge, taken by Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps but the batsman still knocked upstairs for a second opinion.

Then, Vishvaraj Jadeja (54)  and Arpit Vasavada (29*)  kept the scoreboard ticking and added 50 runs for the third wicket. Vishvaraj looked in sublime touch, particularly against Shahbaz. He smashed three consecutive boundaries in the 58th over – two handsome drives through covers and a sweep on one knee.

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Akash struck for the second time to dismiss Vishvaraj. He beat the inside edge of the batter to knock back the off stump.

Every time there was a wicket, the crowd cheered assuming the next batsman will be Cheteshwar Pujara but the India international kept pushing himself down the order. He came out once Ishan Porel trapped Sheldon Jackson in front of the stumps. But his first day stint of the Ranji final lasted only 24 balls. Pujara retired hurt complaining of dehydration.

This wicket is likely to be spin-friendly as the game progresses. Bengal will have to rely on Shahbaz who will need solid support from off-break bowler Arnab Nandi.

Akash was the pick of the bowlers for Bengal. He ended with three wickets which included a last-ball dismissal – that of Chetan Sakariya, caught by Saha.

Brief scores: Saurashtra 206/5 (A Barot 54, V Jadeja 54; Akash Deep 3/41, S Ahmed 1/56) at stumps.

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