Saurashtra defeated Bengal by nine wickets to clinch its second Ranji Trophy title at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.
Led by Jaydev Unadkat, Saurashtra reduced the home side to a paltry 174 after winning the toss on Thursday before posting a daunting 404 on the board. Fifties from opener Harvik Desai (50) and Saurashtra’s strong middle-order trio comprising Sheldon Jackson (59), Arpit Vasavada (81) and Chirag Jani (60) helped the visitor gain a 230-run first-innings lead.
While Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary led a response with his half-century on Saturday, a flurry of wickets in Day 4’s morning session undid his grind. A mix-up between Tiwary and Shahbaz Ahmed resulted in the latter’s dismissal and the end of a 48-run partnership. Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat then secured his 22nd First-Class five-wicket haul (6/85) before Bengal set a meagre 12-run target. Opener Harvik Desai hit the winning runs as Saurashtra secured a second successive title after the Vijay Hazare Trophy triumph earlier this season.
Saurashtra’s maiden title win came in the 2019-20 season when it beat the same opponent in the final at home in Rajkot. Saurashtra is among the most consistent red-ball teams in the domestic circuit, having made its fifth final since the 2012-13 season.
Saurashtra has missed the services of seniors Unadkat, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja on a regular basis due to national commitments. However, the team has hinged on its collective effort with bat and ball to overcome tricky results in the league stage.
After remaining unbeaten in the first five rounds, Saurashtra suffered successive defeats to Andhra and Tamil Nadu in its group. Saurashtra, however, finished on top of Elite Group B with 26 points and proceeded to beat Punjab by 71 runs in a thrilling quarterfinal match in Rajkot.
Saurashtra then overcame a huge challenge from Karnataka in the semifinal in Bengaluru with big tons from Arpit Vasavada (202) and Sheldon Jackson (160) securing a four-wicket win.
Vasavada, named Player of the Match in the 2019-20 final, finished second in the batting charts of the season with 907 runs from 15 innings, including three centuries and two fifties. The left-handed batter
Left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja topped the bowling charts for Saurashtra with 43 wickets from 10 matches.
Meanwhile, Bengal’s wait for the red-ball title continued as it finished runner-up for the 13th time in 15 finals. Bengal’s last title came in 1989-90 season - it has finished second on five occasions since.
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