On This Day: Haryana pips Bombay in thrilling Ranji Trophy final

An astonishing finish to an incredible Ranji Trophy final (1991), in which a mere two runs separated the gallant winner, Haryana from the valiant loser, Bombay.

Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma and other team-mates celebrate their thrilling two-run win over Bombay.   -  Hindu Archives

An astonishing finish was given to an incredible cricket match in which a mere two runs separated the gallant winner, Haryana from the valiant loser, Bombay. Even more than the tantalising contest in which fortunes swung back and forth like some pendulum that had gone berserk, it was the human drama behind the triumph and tragedy that heightened the sense of this Charminar Challenge Ranji Trophy final being so very extraordinary.

Sensational batting by Bombay made a match out of what would have been a lost cause to many other sides in the same competition. Haryana may have been responsible for widening its own vulnerability in the heat of the contest. It was one senior batsman's indomitable spirit which brought Bombay to the threshold of what would have been an improbable win. Even as the Haryana players were jumping with joy on a run out dismissal signalling their maiden title success, Dilip Vengsarkar sat on the ground, inconsolably drowned in tears.

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Sachin Tendulkar's pyrotechnics had launched the victory bid but Bombay was well out of it when its ninth wicket fell with 50 still needed at a run a ball. Vengsarkar, who played second fiddle to Tendulkar in their 134-run stand, revealed that the stalwart could put the blazing kid to shame with his strokes. Nothing could have brought out better the regal command of his innings of 139 not out (137 balls, nine 4's and five 6's) than the 64,664 sequence in which he plundered 26 runs in an over of Bhandari.

Sachin Tendulkar and Dilip Vengsarkar put up a 134-run stand. Behind them is off-spinner Bhandari.   -  Hindu Archives

 

The second six may be about the biggest six seen at the Wankhede Stadium. The ondrive kept climbing in such a fantastic arc that by the time gravity took hold the ball had dashed into the top-most part of the fascia of the roof of the Tata stand. As the ball came down to earth after disturbing a chip or two, the impossible had come down through the improbable to the ralm of the possible. Vengsarkar, hampered by a strained thigh muscle, was struggling to cope (he had Rajput acting as his runner) only with the job of landing his backfoot on the ground after each sweetly timed drive.

Kuruvilla, the debutant faced as many as 25 balls as Vengsarkar felt unequal to piercing the sevenmen-on-the-fence field. His tactic of taking a single off the first ball of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th mandatory overs could be faulted. So could much of the overly defensive tactics of the Haryana bowlers, Kapil Dev not excepted. But then this game was all about the will to win that both teams displayed rather than the specifics of the cricket which was of a high quality only on the last day of the final.

The morning had belonged to Haryana as the tall, cool and dapper Ajay Banerjee (60 not out off 158 balls with nine 4's) and the diminutive Pradeep Jain (77 balls, two 4's) defied the Bombay bowlers with confidence in defence and certainty in the occasional forcing stroke. Haryana was inching to safety when Jain was leg before to Patil Bhandari, the last man, took it there in a dash with his 19 off 20 balls before he was caught at slip. That left Bombay the task of 355 at 5 22 runs per over in 67 overs.

The advantage may have been with Haryana as Hattangadi, and then Rajput was adjudged leg before.

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Manjrekar, who showed the first signs of making this a limited-overs slog, almost perished to the hook once before being forced to glove a brute of a rising ball from Chetan Sharma. At 34 for three, the Bombay players may have been in a sombre mood at lunch. The mood changed dramatically as Tendulkar began showing the range of his wondrous talent.

With sheer timing, he dismissed the pace of Kapil and Chetan. An off-driven six. played on the rise, off Kapil was as joyous a shot as one was likely to see.

While the ondrives kept sailing well beyond the reach of fielders on the line, even the full tosses were despatched to the screen rather than the onside which only went to show how much power this lad can develop. This power off the modem, heavy bat was, however, also the cause of his fatigue.

The knock of 96 studded with five sixes and nine fours was given a feeble end when Tendulkar drove a full toss into the hands of short extra cover. Vengsarkar's share of the stand was a mere 28 but he must have enjoyed every minute of it as Tendulkar made the seam attack look like something out of schools cricket. Vengsarkar too had begun in much the same way with a hook, an extra cover drive, an off drive and a midwicket drive for fours, all off Kapil. The senior pro was just settling scores with his doughty opponent who had bowled him in the first innings. That he eased up so noticeably was a tribute to his experience.

Kambli may not have timed the ball well initially but he settled grittily to contribute 45 to his stand with Vengsarkar The match had slipped into the, mandatory overs phase by then and it did seem more than possible that Bombay could breeze it when 104 were needed. The medium pace was bowled as much to fill time as to deny Bombay any more than the 47 overs before the final hour could be reckoned to have started It was this medium pace that Kambli pulled so expertly through midwicket that a shrewd Kapil brought on Ajay Jadeja as a change bowler.

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As Jadeja ran back to take a miscued drive, the hearts of Bombay supporters may have missed a beat or two. That left only Pandit and the sometimes good sloggers, Kulkami and Ankola, to offer Vengsarkar the massive support he needed now to keep up with the turning tide. The Haryana spinners' best chance may have lain in giving the ball some air so that the batsmen had to generate the power to get runs.

The spinners who had forgotten what flight was when Tundulkar was batting became bolder on Kambli's departure. Pandit miscued a hit into covers where Deepak Sharma clung to his first catch of the match in the same nervy way in which he dropped so many. Kulkarni was run out in calling runner Rajput for a second that was not clearly there because Chetan already had the ball in hand at fineleg.

Bhandari plotted Ankola's caught and bowled dismissal with another one held back nicely. That left only one man squarely in the middle of the explosive action — Vengsarkar. He had lost Bombay's topscorer of the first innings, Sanjay Patil, through another run out and Kuruvilla may have been reckoned to have been a batting bunny until he began as if he was born to be the most competitive number eleven in the game. Kuruvilla was once perilously close to being leg before to Kapil after Vengsarkar's despair had led to that simply amazing onslaught on Bhandari and had shrunk the target to less than half its original size.

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The final runs came excruciatingly in singles even as Kapil kept staring at his watch which he had to wear on the field in order to avoid the penalty provision in the laws. But neither he nor Chetan could actually pierce Kuruvilla's defence and defiance. With five runs coming off the 18th mandatory over, by Kapil, Bombay was only a boundary hit away from what would have been a remarkable comeback triumph in the fourth innings. But Vengsarkar chose to take only a single and Kuruvilla's attempt to give back the strike ended in a hopeless mixup with both Kuruvilla and Rajput standing in the middle of the pitch.

A crest-fallen Dilip Vengsarkar is consoled by one of his teammates after his valiant 139 not out had proved in vain for Bombay.   -  Hindu Archives

 

Kaypee's return to the 'keeper was gleefully accepted and the war dance of victory had begun even as one inconsolable figure remained seated near where the square leg umpire had been standing only moments before the finish. The runs that Vengsarkar could not take in the company of Kambli even as a runner took an interminable time to get ready and the runs that may have accrued to Haryana as a hasty boundary signal was made by an umpire might well have counted in the end Those runs could have tilted the verdict altogether but then they formed part of the classic ifs and buts of the game.

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This was a match which brought about a triumph of spirit in Indian first class cricketers though the spirit of triumph could be savoured only by Haryana, the aspirant from North Zone which, ironically enough, had once made a genuine offer to withdraw from the tournament so that the Ranji Trophy could escape from the legal imbroglio. On such slender threads hang the classic tales of cricket.

The scores:

Haryana — 1st innings: 522

Bombay — 1st innings: 410

Haryana — 2nd innings: Deepak Sharma c Pandit b Kuruvilla 2; Dhanraj Singh b Ankola 33; A Jadeja c Vengsarkar b Patil 25; Amarjeet Singh Kaypee c Pandit b Patil 5; R. Puri c Pandit b Ankola 15, Kapil Dev b Kulkrni 41; A. Banerjee (not out) 60; V Yadav c Pandit b Hattangadi 7; Chetan Sharma b Hattangadi 0; P. Jain Ibw b Patil 13. Y. Bhandari c Vengsarkar b Ankola 19; Extra (b 9, Ib 6, nb 7) 22; Total: 242.

Fall of wickets: 1-16. 2-47. 3-68, 4-77. 5-100. 6-146, 7-154,8-154,9-211

Bombay bowling: Kulkami 12-1-50-1; Kuruvilla 13-2-40-1; Ankola 13.4-1-39-3, Patil 34-13-65-3; Hattangadi 11-5-24-2; Rajput 4-1-9-0.

Bombay — 2nd innings: L. S. Rajput Ibw b Kapil Dev 11; S. Hattangadi Ibw b Chetan Sharma 1; S. V Manjrekar c Yadav b Chetan Sharma 19; D B. Vengsarkar (not out) 139; S. R. Tendulkar c Jadeja b Bhandari 96; V H. Kambli c and b Jadeja 45; C.S. Pandit c Deepak Sharma b Jain 12; R. R. Kulkarni (run out) 4; S. Ankola c and b Bhandari 5: S. Patil (run out) 2; A. Kuruvilla (run out) 5; Extras (b 5, Ib 5, w 2, nb 1)13: Total 352

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-34, 3-34, 4-168, 5-249, 6-274, 7-290, 8-300, 9-305.

Haryana bowling: Kapil Dev 21-1-91-1; Chetan Sharma 16.4-2-59-2; Bhandari 17-0-124-2; Jain 9-0-55-1; Jadeja 2-0-13-1.

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