Advantage Saurashtra on opening day

Vidarbha's big gun Wasim Jaffer failed to fire on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra in Nagpur on Sunday. PTI

Vidarbha’s fortunes moved up and down just like the two-paced surface as Saurashtra edged ahead on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final here.

While the pitch was on the slower side, the discipline of Saurashtra bowlers and the lack of application by some of the home batsmen combined to hand visitors an early advantage at the VCA’s Jamtha Stadium on Sunday. At stumps on an extended first day’s attritional play, Vidarbha had reached 200/7 in 90 overs, a relatively better position after they were left reeling at 139 for six in the immediacy of tea. 

Vidarbha’s strategy has been to pile big totals by batting first and put the opposition under pressure straightaway. It, therefore, came as no surprise when they opted to bat first after winning the toss on a chilly winter morning despite having a couple of quality new-ball exponents in the side. Though the pitch sported a grassy look, it wasn’t nearly as spiteful. Saurashtra pace spearhead and skipper Jaydev Unadkat did extract some discomforting bounce and movement off the seam to trouble the Vidarbha openers, and though not entirely convincing, Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy somehow seemed to be tiding over the tough phase. 

It was a test of Unadkat and his new-ball partner Chetan Sakariya’s persistence versus Vidarbha batsmen’s temperament. While Unadkat posed a few questions, Sakariya (14-7-13-1) exercised great control as Vidarbha batsmen made little headway in terms of scoring. Someone had to give away and Sanjay obliged, chasing an away going delivery from Unadkat and only managing an edge that carried to Arpit Vasavada at first slip. It was a smart and fair catch which the replays confirmed. 

Fazal paid the price for being casual while running between the wickets. The skipper, after calling for a second, showed no urgency to reach to the crease, perhaps not expecting the throw to his end and watched in horror as Sakariya’s accurate return to stumper Snell Patel caught him short. It was a poor piece of cricket. Wasim Jaffer, who had survived a close call for an lbw decision when on three, was involved in a fascinating battle with Sakariya. 

While Sakariya kept him quiet with his tight line and length, Unadkat got the reward. The left-arm quick bowled in the channel and consistently shaped the ball away from the right-handers and Jaffer, who suffered a rare blip in concentration, nicked one such delivery to Snell behind the wickets and the over-the-top celebrations showed how big the wicket was. Saurashtra went for lunch at 67/3. Unadkat richly deserved both the wickets but Sakariya’s control at the other end greatly contributed towards that.

The second session was much better for Vidarbha as they lost just one wicket in Mohit Kale (35) while adding 63 runs with Ganesh Satish looking compact and composed. 

The third session, however, began on a disastrous note with Saurashtra dismissing Ganesh (32) who was a trifle late in leaving Prerak Mankad’s delivery which went off the bat to Snell. Aditya Sarwate (0) fell soon to leave Vidarbha at 139/6. Akshay Wadkar (45) and Akshay Karnewar (31) then forged an alliance of 57 runs but an ill-advised shot from the former towards the end of the day put an end to the partnership and Saurashtra left the field with a sense of satisfaction.

Unadkat, who summoned the new ball in the last over, will be hoping to wipe off the tail early on the second morning.

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