Chennai: Rajasthan became only the fifth team to win the Ranji Trophy in successive seasons, as they beat Tamil Nadu on the first-innings lead in Chennai.
The defending champions had effectively won the match on the penultimate day, when they had bowled out Tamil Nadu to gain a 326-run lead. Having opted to bat again, the visitors extended the lead to 530 runs. Then to rub further salt on Tamil Nadu's wounds, Gajendra Singh trapped Yo Mahesh and Abhinav Mukund leg before in successive overs, before both teams decided to call off the match before the mandatory overs started with no outright result possible.
On Sunday, the main reason Rajasthan had not enforced the follow-on was to provide the pair of Vineet Saxena and Robin Bist the chance to get to 1000 runs in the season. Aakash Chopra did not show any inclination to stay out in the middle, at least on the evidence of his exit: he went for a pull shot from outside off, without getting behind the line of the delivery from J Kaushik. The bowler finished an easy catch after Chopra's top edge ballooned over his head.
Saxena, whose first-innings' marathon 907-minute 257 was the third-highest score this season, could add only three more runs to his total of 10 though. He was the second wicket to fall in the morning, after Chopra. He had started the innings 116 runs adrift of the landmark but was bowled trying to tap the ball away without moving his feet against a straight delivery from R Prasanna.
But Bist did not miss out - he became the 12th man in Ranji Trophy history to log 1000 runs in a calendar year. He reached the milestone by pushing a single to fine leg off Kaushik. He had already notched his second fifty of the match by hitting a nicely-timed cover drive of part-time slow bowler M Vijay. What Bist missed was his fifth century of the season, by eight runs, when he played a tired slog against Prasanna that was easily pouched by S Badrinath at midwicket. Still Bist, with four tons under his belt, finished the tournament with the most number of centuries.
In addition to having the top two run-makers this season, Rajasthan added one more feather to their cap when Pankaj Singh, who had taken two wickets in the Tamil Nadu innings, finished as the third-highest wicket-taker 34 victims. Only TP Sudhindra (Madhya Pradesh - 40) and Ashok Dinda (Bengal - 37), were ahead of him.
As for the hosts, Tamil Nadu had to finish second to Rajasthan for the second straight year. Last year Rajasthan had denied the visitors a first-innings lead in the semi-finals in Jaipur. This time it was much worse, as Tamil Nadu remained mute spectators all through the five days. Their biggest problem was the failure of their formidable top order, which showed no character or resilience barring the battling century from Dinesh Karthik.
The only plus point for the hosts from the final was the bowling of Aushik Srinivas, the 18-year-old left-arm spinner, who bowled a record number of overs comprising long, attacking spells that did not allow the batsmen to play their shots with freedom.