The early scenes from the final day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Monday told the story.
The P3 stand, which was filled to the brim during the weekend, hardly had any spectators. On the field, even before the first ball, R Vinay Kumar (3/75) wasn’t happy with the landing area and was involved in a heated argument with umpire Khalid Hussen Saiyed, the man who denied the Karnataka pacer Cheteshwar Pujara’s wicket on the penultimate day.
Karnataka and their supporters were still smarting from a frustrating fourth day’s play that had practically knocked them out of the competition. Following three days of absorbing battle, it was Saurashtra who felt assured going into the final day. Resuming from 224/3, 55 runs away from a win, it was a mere formality for the visitors and it remained just that.
Saurashtra, who pulled off a record chase of 372 against Uttar Pradesh in the quarterfinal, overhauled another daunting target of 279 to storm into their third final in seven seasons. Jaydev Unadkat’s men will face defending champions Vidarbha for their maiden title from February 3 in Nagpur.
Karnataka managed to pick two wickets in the morning but it was too little and too late. Sheldon Jackson (100, 217b, 17x4), who notched up his century, was bowled by Vinay. Ronit More (1/57) dismissed Arpit Vasavada (12). However, Karnataka knew they couldn’t stop the inevitable with danger man Pujara (131 n.o., 266b, 17x4) at the other end. Prerak Mankad, with a drive past mid-off, brought up the most awaited moment for Saurashtra.
The contrasting emotions on the field weren’t hard to miss. The visitors rejoiced and posed for photographs while the hosts wore a despondent look. Karnataka, after their second straight semifinal exit, might feel hard done by the umpiring blunders. Even if one of the three contentious decisions had gone their way, Karnataka would have had the upper hand. That apart, their ordinary batting in the second innings cost them dear.
As expected, Pujara proved to be the difference in Saurashtra’s brilliant win. The veteran was a huge positive influence on his side. Right from the opening day, Pujara’s massive involvement in the game was very evident. His regular chats with Unadkat and bowlers kept the team going.
During the chase, he often walked up to a struggling Sheldon and egged him to carry on. After throwing away his wicket in an uncharacteristic manner in the first innings, the 31-year-old was immensely patient and focused in the second essay.
“Yes all of us are excited and looking forward to winning our first Ranji Trophy title. We have been in the final twice, this time we have a very good team and the opportunity. At 23/3, we just wanted to build a partnership. Looking at the wicket, I thought once the ball gets old, it is good to bat,” said Pujara.
Unadkat, meanwhile, spoke on the value Pujara brings to the side. “He wants the title more than anyone else in the side. For him, it doesn’t really matter at what level he is playing. He just wants to be out there and win it for his team,” he said.
DH News Service