Rest of India makes a historic chase to win Irani Cup

After conceding 603 runs to Mumbai in the first innings, Rest of India came back strongly to beat the Ranji champions on the final day of the Irani Cup with four wickets to spare. Its chase of 480 is the highest in Irani Cup history.

Rest of India with the Irani Trophy.   -  Vivek Bendre

Faiz Fazal scored a century for Rest of India in the fourth innings.   -  Vivek Bendre

Rest of India upset all predictions by chasing a tall fourth innings target of 480 and won the Irani Cup match against Ranji Trophy winner Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday. A direct hit by Akhil Herwadkar that resulted in Rest captain Naman Ojha's dismissal rekindled hopes for the home team. But Stuart Binny’s big blows and an equally dynamic performance by Sheldon Jackson (59 not out) took their side past the finishing line. It was the third highest run chase in India’s domestic first class tournament history (the highest in Irani Cup), which in the last two days saw a splendid team effort outwit the Ranji Trophy winner. Rest’s win was memorable because it was in deficit in the first innings by 297 runs.

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The proud men in the Rest ranks would thank left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat and off-spinner Jayant Yadav who made a joint effort to skittle Mumbai out for 182 in the second innings. Rest's task was yet arduous, asked to score 480 in a minimum of 133 overs. The Rest batsmen, however, rose to the occasion on a pitch that did not offer anything to the Mumbai seamers. The lone spinner in Iqbal Abdullah did not have a specialist spinner to complement his effort.

 

It was the second time in three months that a Mumbai team had lost a title match after setting a 400-plus target. Mumbai’s Cooch-Behar Trophy team set a target of 446 and lost to Uttar Pradesh in January. Clearly Mumbai would have been devastated by the outcome of the match on Thursday; none of its fast bowlers who had excelled in helpful conditions were impactful.

After a decent start on Wednesday, the Rest middle order did not fall prey to the defensive field set by the home team captain and when Abdullah bowled a negative line from over the wicket and wide of the crease. First, left-handers Faiz Fazal and Sudip Chatterjee, put on 112 for the second wicket and thereafter Fazal (127) and Karnataka’s Karun Nair (92) consolidated the position with 128 runs for the third wicket. In spite of losing Fazal and Nair, Rest was always in the race for the honours.

Binny and Jackson easily overcame the setback caused by Ojha's wicket. The sixth-wicket pair put on a rousing 92 in 56 minutes with Binny lifting two straight sixes and also hitting three fours. An expansive drive in front of the wicket by Jackson off Abdullah took Rest to a great victory. Mumbai tried its best. It was forced to take the new ball after 100 overs and it kept faith in Abdullah, but on a day when an assorted group of determined batsmen chosen from all parts of the country joined hands, showed their might and fought till the end, the champion team was floored in its own backyard.