Ruturaj Gaikwad continued his run-feast with a third consecutive hundred. However, Chirag Jani and Sheldon Jackson staged a Bhavnagar bash on Friday to help Saurashtra regain the Vijay Hazare Trophy after 15 years.
Jani’s (three for 43) hat-trick - Saurashtra’s first in domestic one-day competition - meant Maharashtra’s late march was halted at 248 for nine.
Jackson (133 n.o., 136b, 12x4, 5x6) - Jani’s roommate and senior from Bhavnagar, a Kathiawari city around 170 km from Rajkot, the home of Saurashtra cricket - then notched up an unbeaten hundred to help Saurashtra lift the coveted trophy for the first time since 2007-08.
It was fitting that when Jackson finished the game with a leg-glance off Manoj Ingale for a four in the 47th over, he had Jani at the other end. The duo’s pacy 57-run association ensured that Saurashtra crossed the line without much fuss.
The game, though, was set up in the latter half of Maharashtra’s first innings. Jani’s direct hit from mid-on meant youngster Pawan Shah had to return to the dressing room after Maharashtra was forced to bat in seam-friendly conditions at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
It forced Gaikwad and Satyajeet Bachhav, the southpaw who was yet again promoted to see off the early overs, to virtually go into a shell against an accurate pace quartet. At the 30-over mark, Maharashtra had trundled to 102 for two, with Gaikwad batting on 47.
The next 10 overs saw the Maharashtra captain going bonkers, scoring 56 off the 79 runs Maharashtra added. His second fifty took just 29 balls, in stark contrast to the 96 deliveries he faced for the first fifty.
Just when Azim Kazi was also coming into his element, the left-hander sent Gaikwad back for a second run and Prerak Mankad’s throw was spot-on for Unadkat to dislodge the bails and find Gaikwad was short of his crease.
Maharashtra then required its long batting order to finish on a strong note but Jani derailed it in the penultimate over with a hat-trick. It started with a yorker that wicketkeeper Saurabh Nawale had no answer to, having exposed his stumps. Next up, another yorker and big-hitter Rajvardhan Hangargekar was plumb in front. Rookie Vicky Ostwal then missed a straight and full delivery and Jani burst into celebration along with his teammates.
Early wickets were a must for Maharashtra to claw its way back but Jackson and Harvik Desai’s 125-run partnership nearly shut the door on the men in yellow. Mukesh Choudhary’s left-arm pace gave Maharashtra a double strike but with Jackson making the Maharashtra bowlers - except left-arm spinner Ostwal who didn’t concede a boundary in his 10 overs - dance to his tune, the Saurashtra camp continued to dance all through the evening.
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