Kuldeep Sen’s second-five wicket haul and Abhimanyu Easwaran’s breezy unbeaten fifty helped the Rest of India cruise to a convincing eight-wicket win over Saurashtra and stamp its authority on the Irani Cup on Tuesday.
With Sen wiping out the last two Saurashtra wickets in 18 balls, RoI wound up Saurashtra for 380 in its second innings. Despite losing two quick wickets to Jaydev Unadkat’s left-arm pace, Abhimanyu (63*, 78b, 9x4) and K.S. Bharat’s (27*, 82b, 5x4) unbroken association of 81 runs meant RoI overhauled the target of 105 runs 40 minutes after lunch on the fourth day.
When Saurashtra started the day with a lead of 94 and Unadkat unbeaten on 78, it was an uphill task for the home team to set an enticing target. Unadkat started the day on a promising note, steering Sen past point for a four off the first ball of the day.
But Sen got rid of Parth Bhut in the third over of the day with a fuller delivery that seamed into the batter and found Bhut plumb in front of the wickets. In his next over, Unadkat’s extravagant slash off Sen resulted in a nick to Bharat behind the wickets. While Unadkat managed to stretch the target into three digits, he missed his hundred by 11 runs.
For a formidable batting line-up on a pitch that hardly had any demons for batters, it was a matter of when rather than if RoI completed the formalities. Unadkat coerced Priyank Panchal, who had replaced injured Mayank Agarwal during the match, into an edge.
Had Yash Dhull, the promising batter who caressed Chetan Sakariya and Unadkat through covers off frontfoot and backfoot, respectively, not been adjudged lbw when the ball was sliding down the leg side, the game could well have been over before lunch.
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However, Abhimanyu played impressive drives close to his body and Bharat made the most of his promotion to seal the deal without further damage.
Despite Sen being the most successful bowler in the match with an eight-wicket haul, Mukesh Kumar was adjudged the player of the match for his four-wicket haul on the first morning that turned out to be decisive.