Ranji Trophy final: Saurashtra, fourth time lucky!

Jaydev Unadkat brought his side back into the game with two quick wickets to choke Bengal on day five as Saurashtra clinched its first Ranji Trophy title.

Jaydev Unadkat celebrates after helping Saurashtra win the maiden Ranji Trophy title in Rajkot on Friday.   -  Vijay Soneji

It’s been an unusual final, clearly not a great advertisement for red-ball cricket with three-and-a-quarter innings on display. On a slow wicket, Saurashtra and Bengal had to bat for two days to get to a tipping point. Till day four, it was anybody’s game as Anustup Majumdar (63 off 151; 8x4) and Arnab Nandi (40* off 126; 5x4, 6x1) narrowed down the deficit to 71.

On day five, Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat — who topped the bowling charts with 67 wickets in the season — caught Bengal by the neck to secure a victory on the basis of first-innings lead of 44 runs.

He trapped Majumdar in front of the stumps, ran Akash Deep out — a freak dismissal with the batsman carelessly stranded outside the crease — to bring his side back in the game. From 354/6, the tourists added just 27 runs to be dismissed for 381.

READ: As it happened

Majumdar misread the in-angler and played the wrong line, while Akash had a brain fade moment. He didn’t find it necessary to stay inside the crease after playing a delivery. What’s more astounding is wicketkeeper Avi Barot missed the stumps in the first attempt and it was Unadkat who eventually hit the target. Akash remained on the line for the entire split-second episode.

Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel are not known to be great batters. The former was caught by Vishvaraj Jadeja at short-leg while the latter gifted Unadkat his second wicket by allowing one to kiss his pads.

Unadkat looked up in the sky, smiled and led his side to the dressing room satisfied.

One can only feel for Nandi. He had intent. He wanted to do it for the side but fell short of partners. Bengal lost its last four wickets for 27 runs with Unadkat being the pick of the bowlers.

Saurashtra had to bat one more session out of formality.

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Stretching the lead

Bengal needed a miracle to pull things back in its favour.  Mukesh Kumar got Harvik Desai (21 off 31; 4x3) lbw in the 10th over but the review presented a different picture. The bowler had overstepped.

Slow left-arm bowler Shahbaz Ahmed finally got Desai at the stroke of lunch. The ball touched his wrist and landed at substitute fielder Abhishek Raman at silly point. Vishvaraj Jadeja (17 off 20; 4x3) — caught by Wriddhiman Saha off Akash Deep — and first-innings centurion Arpit Vasavada (3 off 11) followed suit.

Sheldon Jackson (12* off 41 (4x2) and Avi Barot (39 off 102; 7x4) kept hanging in the middle to stretch the lead to 149 before the captain's decided to shake hands.

Empty stands

On day four, school children had arrived in groups to cheer for the local team. Every bowler started his run-up with a loud roar from the spectators.

But on Thursday evening, the Health Ministry had issued an advisory stating that all sports events must be held behind closed doors to prevent the growth of Coronavirus. The stands remained empty since morning but once Bengal was dismissed for 381; many people wanted to enter the ground but they were stopped at the gate.

DID YOU KNOW: Before Saurashtra was formed. Nawanagar and Western India from this region had won the Ranji Trophy in 1936-37 and 1943-44 and in both instances, Bengal was the runner-up.

Brief scores: Saurashtra 425 & 105/3 (A Barot 39*, S Jackson 12; S Ahmed 2/32); Bengal 381 (S Chatterjee 81, W Saha 64, A Majumdar 63; D Jadeja 3/114, J Unadkat 2/96)

Saurashtra win on the basis of first-innings lead

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