Saurashtra stage fine fightback

Rather by happenstance than any design, defending champions Vidarbha and Saurashtra have dished out three days of engaging cricket even if the quality hasn’t been as great.

The dogged fightbacks by the batsmen, a fast bowler’s fury and frustration, the spinners’ delight at dismissals and despair at dropped catches, the gripping battle for lead – it was first-class cricket at its absorbing best.

At stumps on the middle day of the Ranji Trophy final, Vidarbha finished their second innings at 55 for two in 31 overs for an overall lead of 60 after dismissing Saurashtra for 307, just five runs short of hosts’ first innings total minutes before tea on Tuesday. Having conceded the lead, albeit an insignificant one, Saurashtra knew they had to do all the running to get an outright result and they might just be on the way after dismissing both the openers.

A promoted Ganesh Satish (24 n.o.) and Wasim Jaffer (5 n.o.) were at the crease and Vidarbha will bank on these experienced campaigners to help them post a total beyond Saurashtra’s reach.

Earlier, overnight batsman Snell Patel duly completed his century (102, 209b, 15x4) while Vidarbha left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate added two more wickets on the day for a five-wicket haul (5/98). Off-spinner Akshay Wakhare was equally impressive with a 4/80.

Saurashtra, overnight 158/5, took their total past 300 despite being reduced to 222/8 and then 247/9. They did have the rub of the green going their way, but then, fortune favours the brave. Poor catching has been Vidarbha’s bane for some time and it came to haunt them in their most important match of the season. Jaffer held on to a few catches on the day, his take of Kamlesh Makvana being the pick of them but the veteran also dropped three catches on the day, two of them being easy offerings.

Jaffer dropped Makvana on nine off Akshay Karnewar in a total of 194/7 and he went on score 27 while adding 28 runs for the eighth wicket and 25 runs for the ninth-wicket before being dismissed at team’s total of 247. Jaffer spilled an edge from Chetan Sakariya as well on zero off Akshay Wakhare with the total reading 248/9. The right-hander not only scored 28 but raised 65 for the last wicket with skipper Jaydev Unadkat (46, 101b, 4x4) during a 116-minute partnership. This was a crucial association that helped Saurashtra reduce the gap by over 60 runs which could have been too much considering they have to bat last on this pitch.

The surface has been a strange one with certain sessions turning easy for batsmen and difficult on other occasions. Having dismissed five Saurashtra batsmen on the second day, Vidarbha bowlers weren’t able to exercise as much pressure on the visiting batting. Every time they broke a partnership, Saurashtra stitched another.

On a slow wicket, where the turn off the soft old ball wasn’t threatening, Saurashtra batsmen were able to negotiate it effectively. This was the reason why skipper Faiz Fazal gave an extended spell to Umesh Yadav who had the rival batsmen hopping and jumping at the crease with his extra pace and bounce. He hit on the helmet and right thumb of Prerak Mankad, on the back of Snell’s helmet and again on the helmet of Sakariya who all needed on-field medical attention.

Snell had to undergo an MRI scan which cleared the opener of any damage. In the second innings, Saurashtra had substitute A Barot don wicketkeeping gloves in place of Snell. While Umesh was fiery he wasn’t able to run through Saurashtra batting like he had in the previous matches against Chhattisgarh and Kerala. Despite copping so much from the pacer, Saurashtra batsmen braved it out to keep themselves in the hunt.

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Saurashtra stage fine fightback

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