Vidarbha on the cusp of victory

With just four sessions left in the game, Saurashtra needed 206 runs to lift their maiden Ranji Trophy title and Vidarbha had to take 10 wickets to retain the same. As the two teams resumed post-tea proceedings, both had reasons to fancy their chances but by stumps on the fourth day, the defending champions had tightened their grip on the match.

After conceding just a five-run lead, Saurashtra had done well to restrict Vidarbha, overnight 55/2, to 200 all out in their second innings with left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja claiming 6/96 on the fourth day of the final here on Wednesday. While a target of 206 was always going to be tricky on a fourth-innings pitch, Saurashtra batting had the wherewithal to get the job done with Cheteshwar Pujara being their anchor and enforcer.

Saurashtra openers Snell Patel and Harvik Desai gave a decent start as well before Aditya Sarwate (3/13) set the cat among pigeons with three blows -- Pujara’s being the most crucial one. The left-arm spinner, who had taken a five-for in Saurashtra’s first innings and had scored 49 to bolster Vidrabha’s second innings total, dismissed both the openers and Pujara in the space of 10 balls to leave the tourists reeling at 22/3.

Umesh Yadav then had a tentative Aarpit Vasavada edging to wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar to reduce them to 35/4. Sheldon Jackson played an irresponsible shot completely oblivious to the situation. The right-hander stepped out to Akshay Wakhare but missed a low delivery that knocked his leg-stump down as Saurashtra retired for the day on a wobbly 58/5.

Jackson had to negotiate just three more overs for the day, but his extravagance left Saurashtra in arrears of 148 runs on the final day with half the side back in the hut. While time isn’t a constraint, the turning track and an aggressive home attack will test Saurashtra batsmen’s character and temperament.

Vidarbha’s hopes of a sizeable total hinged on overnight batsmen Ganesh Satish (35) and Wasim Jaffer but the experienced duo didn’t last long in the morning with D Jadeja, who had accounted for Vidarbha openers the previous evening, dismissing them in successive overs. Skipper Jaydev Unadkat sent Wadkar’s stump cartwheeling in the next over as Vidarbha slipped to 73 for five. Saurashtra had a chance to shut the door on the champions but Mohit Kale (38) and Sarwate put on a doughty show with the bat to stretch their total to 200 and give themselves something significant to bowl at.

First-innings centurion Snell stayed off the field during Vidarbha’s entire second innings and looked none the worse for the nasty hit on his helmet by an Umesh snorter on Tuesday. Vidarbha had to get him out early in this small chase and Sarwate did the job by inducing an edge from the right-hander to slip with a tossed-up delivery. With that, the left-arm spinner topped 50 wickets for the season. Sarwate then had Harvik Desai caught and bowled when the batsman made the mistake of playing against the turn. 

It was his third scalp, however, that firmly put Vidarbha in the saddle. Pujara played Sarwate for the turn with a forward push but the ball stayed straight to hit him right in front for umpire Shamsuddin to make an easy lbw decision. If this was not enough to leave Saurashtra dispirited, the departures of Vasavada and Jackson would have. But then the first three innings have seen some heartening fightback from the lower-order of both sides and as such Vidarbha can’t afford to relax just as Saurashtra wouldn’t give up.               

 

 SCOREBOARD

VIDARBHA (I Innings): 312 all out

SAURASHTRA (I Innings): 307 all out

VIDARBHA (II Innings; 55/2): Faiz Fazal b D Jadeja 10 (67m, 45b), R Sanjay st (sub) A Barot b D Jadeja 16 (105m, 72b, 1x4), Ganesh Satish c V Jadeja b D Jadeja 35 (74b, 3x4, 1x6), Wasim Jaffer c (sub) Barot b D Jadeja 11 (44b, 1x4), Mohit Kale lbw Makvana 38 (94b, 3x4), Akshay Wadkar b Unadkat 0 (10b), Akshay Karnewar c Desai b Makvana 18 (34b, 1x4, 1x6), Aditya Sarwate lbw D Jadeja 49 (133b, 5x4), Akshay Wakhare lbw D Jadeja 1 (18b), Umesh Yadav b Sakariya 15 (12b, 1x4, 1x6), Rajneesh Gurbani (not out) 3 (21b). Extras (B-4) 4. Total (all out, 92.5 overs) 200

Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Fazal), 2-45 (Sanjay), 3-71 (Jaffer), 4-72 (Ganesh)m 5-73 (Wadkar), 6-105 (Karnewar), 7-134 (Kale), 8-147 (Wakhare), 9-178 (Umesh).  

Bowling: Jaydev Unadkat 18-5-30-1, Chetan Sakariya 13-4-19-1, Kamlesh Makvana 25-7-51-2, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja 36.5-3-96-6.

SAURASHTRA (II Innings): Harvik Desai c & b Sarwate 8 (13b, 1x4), Snell Patel c Jaffer b Sarwate 12 (27b, 2x4), Vishvaraj Jadeja (batting) 23 (68b, 3x4), Cheteshwar Pujara lbw Sarwate 0 (5b), Aarpit Vasavada c Wadkar b Umesh 5 (34b), Sheldon Jackson b Wakhare 7 (11b, 1x4), Kamlesh Makwana (batting) 2 (10b). Extras (W-1) 1. Total (for 5 wkts; 28 overs) 58.

Fall of wickets: 1-19 (Snell), 2-22 (Desai), 3-22 (Pujara), 4-35 (Vasavada), 5-55 (Jackson).

Bowling: Aditya Sarwate 10-2-13-3, Umesh Yadav 6-0-27-1 (w-1), Akshay Wakhare 10-3-18-1, Akshay Karnewar 2-2-0-0.  

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