Vidarbha clinches Irani Cup title

Vidarbha finished the season on a high, clinching the Irani Cup title against Rest of India at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur on Sunday. Taking a first innings-lead of 410 of RoI, Vidarbha — which played some dominating cricket over the the five days — had the last laugh.

Vidarbha cricketers celebrate after winning the Irani Cup in Nagpur on Sunday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Vidarbha signed off its most memorable domestic season in style, snatching the Irani Cup from the Rest of India on the basis of the first innings lead. It took Faiz Fazal’s men a little over 52 overs on the fifth and final day to dismiss the last four RoI batsmen and seize a huge first innings lead at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium on Sunday.

READ: As it happened

Vidarbha couldn’t have asked for a better occasion than Gudhi Padwa – beginning of the Marathi new year – to lift the coveted trophy on the back of its humongous 410-run lead. The outcome was all but sure when Vidarbha put on an insurmountable 800 for seven before declaring its first innings. But then, RoI’s overnight pair of G. Hanuma Vihari and Jayant Yadav continued to frustrate the Vidarbha bowlers on day five.

Having already accumulated 138 runs for the seventh wicket, Vihari and Jayant carried on in the same vein. Jayant played an uppish drive off left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate off the first ball of the morning but was fortunate it went wide off the man at short covers. Then on, however, Jayant dug deep while Vihari also took his time.

The duo dropped guard the moment Vidarbha took the new ball the moment it was available, three overs into the day’s play. But Vihari and Jayant blocked Umesh Yadav and Rajneesh Gurbani for six maidens in succession. The moment Sarwate was re-introduced into the attack, Vihari, on 93, charged down the wicket for a six.

In the next over, he steered young pacer Aditya Thakare for a boundary behind the wicket to raise his bat in the air for an impressive hundred.

With the pitch showing no wear and tear even on the fifth day, Vihari went after offie Akshay Wakhare, pounding him for 22 runs in three overs. While Vihari was opening his shoulders up at will, Jayant kept on milking the bowlers, hoping to mark his return to first-class cricket with a hundred. However, half an hour before lunch, Sarwate drew him forward with one that slightly turned, Jayant missed it and 'keeper Akshay Wadkar whipped the bails when Jayant's back-leg was on the white line.

With the much-awaited breakthrough, Vidarbha started tightening the noose. Shahbaz Nadeem, after holding up an end with Vihari for 66 minutes, lost patience after lunch and went for a wild swat that resulted in the ball crashing into the stumps. And umpire C.K. Nandan then fell prey to the fielding side's pressure as he upheld an appeal off Siddharth Kaul when a Umesh Yadav bouncer had lobbed to forward short leg only off the batsman's forearm.

Vihari, with a double hundred in sight, then attempted to clear the boundary off Sarwate but Apoorv Wankhede held his nerve to take a good catch at long-on to wind up the RoI innings.