Aditya Sarwate wanted to make his 50th first-class match memorable, but he obviously did not expect that it would end up being so dramatic.
He claimed six wickets at the expense of mere 17 runs in the second innings as Vidarbha successfully defended a lowly 73, bowling out Gujarat for 54 in a Ranji Trophy Group D game in Nagpur on Thursday. Vidarbha now has 19 points from six games.
It was the lowest target defended in first-class cricket in India. In 1948-49, Bihar defended 78 - the previous lowest total - against Delhi in Jamshedpur.
The Vidarbha players, however, had no idea about the record until they walked back to the dressing room. As they celebrated the much-needed win, it finally became known that they made a history.
It was surely not an easy task, but Vidarbha captain Akshay Wadkar ensured that he put the pressure on Gujarat, who resumed the innings at 6 for 1, by rotating his left-arm spinners Sarwate and Harsh Dubey. And, the plan did the wonder.
“We did not expect it. We thought we could go close but eventually, they would win it since the target was low. But when Gujarat lost five wickets, we knew we had a chance,” Sarwate said to Sportstar in an exclusive chat.
After being bowled out for 74 in the first innings, Vidarbha put up 254 runs in the second essay, but with just 73 to defend, not many thought that the two-time Ranji Trophy champion side would be able to pull it off. The players did not lose hope, though.
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“Our captain told us in the meeting that we have to bat for four sessions at least so that we have a good chance of beating Gujarat. We somehow rode on Jitesh Sharma’s quick-fire 69 and tail-ender Nachiket Bhute (42 off 66 deliveries) to earn a slender lead. We did not hope to win this game because of such a slender lead, but after those five wickets fell, we knew this would be interesting,” the 33-year-old Sarwate said.
“We told each other that if we win from here, this would be remembered for ages. So, we had to stick to the process and bowl in the right areas. That’s something we discussed and I am glad we could execute the plans,” he added.
As the team had nothing to lose, it went all out and got a much-needed victory.
In the first innings, Sarwate claimed five wickets, conceding 64 runs, and he was elated to add another six to his tally in the second essay.
“Spin bowling is our strong point. Akshay Wakhare and I have been playing together for the last seven seasons and even when we won Ranji Trophy, we had a similar approach - we would bowl in tandem. If one would take a wicket, the other would back him from the other end. That was the whole idea,” Sarwate said.
Though Wakhare could not claim a wicket in the second innings, he backed Sarwate throughout and motivated him to keep it going. “We had to stick to our process and not think about the result. That plan worked.”
“We know our strengths and weaknesses. As a team we have gelled well over the years, so we know how to play according to the situation. I trust Wakhare bhai in terms of field placing and other areas and that understanding helps me a lot,” Sarwate said.
While Madhya Pradesh is certain to make it to the knockouts from Group D, Vidarbha now needs to beat Punjab - placed second on the table with 26 points - with a bonus point in the last group league match in a bid to make it to the last-eight stage. The task is difficult, but not impossible.
“We have to bag seven points if we want to move ahead. The good thing is that we will have the services of Umesh Yadav in the final group league match against Punjab, so that is a boost. We have nothing to lose, and we just have one aim - to beat Punjab in the next game and bag seven points in a bid to make it to the next round. Let us see how it goes,” Sarwate added.
The historic victory against Gujarat has given much-needed confidence to Vidarbha players, and ahead of the last group league fixture, they want to go all-out to chase their dreams. Punjab, beware!