Ranji Trophy: Kerala’s late fightback not enough to stop Gujarat

The defending champion won by by four wickets.

Captain Parthiv Patel played sensibly to take Gujarat home against Kerala on the final day of the Ranji Trophy match in Nadiad on Tuesday.

The weather was by far the best of all the four days of this Group B Ranji Trophy match, but that didn’t stop Gujarat from making heavy weather of achieving the modest target set by Kerala.

Needing to make only 105 at less than a run an over, the host somehow managed to bat itself into a potentially precarious situation before skipper Parthiv Patel calmed the nerves in the dressing room. His composure ensured that Gujarat began its defence of the title on the right note. The defending champion won by four wickets at the G. S. Patel Stadium here on Tuesday.

Kerala needed a miracle, on the final day, to avoid defeat. Gujarat had resumed at the overnight 22 for one, needing another 83 runs for victory.

Though the home team lost a couple of wickets early in the day, there was nothing to be alarmed about till there was a middle-order collapse. From 55 for two, Gujarat slumped to 81 for six.

It was the part-time off-spin of captain Sachin Baby that fetched Kerala the sixth wicket; Rujul Bhatt, who had made a crucial 44 in the first innings, got an inside edge and was bowled. Baby’s decision to bring himself on with two left-handers at the wicket paid off and that also brought the match’s highest scorer, Chirag Gandhi, on to the wicket.

He lent solid support to his captain Parthiv, who was batting with ease. The duo played sensibly till the target was met, 13 minutes before lunch. Fittingly, the winning shot came from the skipper, who swept Akshay Chandran for a boundary through mid-wicket.

“We knew it was not going to be easy to reach the target on the final day, so we were prepared to lose a few wickets,” Parthiv said. “It feels nice to begin the new season with a victory.”

The man, or rather the boy, who fashioned the victory was Siddharth Desai. The 17-year-old left-arm spinner predictably walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award. He had taken six wickets in the second innings and finished with a match haul of nine for 170; it is the best performance by a Gujarati bowler on Ranji debut, eclipsing Lalit Patel’s eight for 91, which had come in 1966-67.

Kerala’s captain Sachin Baby said he was glad that his team could fight till the end. “The way we fought against the defending champion on their home turf gives us more confidence for the rest of the season,” he said.

Kerala’s next match is against Rajasthan in Thiruvananthapuram, while Gujarat will play Jammu & Kashmir in Surat. Both the games start on October 24.

The scores:

Kerala 208 & 203 lost to Gujarat 307 and 108 for six in 42.3 overs (Priyank Panchal 30).


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