Mumbai: Saurashtra’s top order was blown away by Mumbai’s quick bowlers on the third morning of the Ranji final, bringing the curtain down on a hammering that gave Mumbai their 40th Ranji title.
A combination of swing and seam, extra bounce and pace put paid to Saurashtra’s hopes of offering any resistance after falling behind by 207 runs in the first innings. The pitch offered a little to bowlers prepared to do the hard yards, but it was far from a surface that warranted a team being bowled out for just 82 on a sunny day. Just 41 minutes after the tea break Mumbai were home, having won the game by an innings and 125 runs.
If the first-innings collapse betrayed a touch of stage fright, the second innings confirmed that Saurashtra were simply overawed by the big occasion while Mumbai basked in the comfort of being in familiar territory. While Dhaval Kulkarni bowled with purpose, sticking to a good line just outside the off stump, and Ajit Agarkar got on top of the batsmen early on, wickets fell to poor shots rather than unplayable deliveries. After a season of feasting on the batting beauties of the Racecourse Ground, Rajkot and the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium at Khanderi, Saurashtra’s batsmen were ill-equipped to perform on a lively surface when it mattered the most.
Shitanshu Kotak, the batting mainstay who might well have played his last game at age 40, was the first to go, feathering an edge to the keeper off Agarkar when trying to deflect the ball to fine-leg. With the rock of the batting line-up back in the pavilion after just three balls of the second innings, there was little resistance. Sagar Jogiyani chased an outswinger that he had no business playing at, Rahul Dave fended a lifter to gully and Saurashtra were five for three. Aarpit Vasavada was the only batsman who was blameless on the day, given out lbw by umpire K Hariharan when he padded up to a delivery that pitched on the off stump, angled away and did not swing in at all. Jaydev Shah, the captain of a sinking ship, left a gap so large between bat and pad that a football would have snuck through. At 11 for five Saurashtra posed a serious threat to the lowest ever score in a Ranji match, the 21 made by Hyderabad against Rajasthan in Jaipur in the 2010-11 season.
Sheldon Jackson had his stumps flattened by Kulkarni and when Kamlesh Makwana got a thick edge to be caught in the slips cordon, Saurashtra’s top seven batsmen had all failed to make it to double figures. At 34 for seven the scope for embarrassment was massive when Saurya Sanandiya put a temporary halt to the procession of batsmen from between the dressing-room and the middle. Sanandiya spent just over an hour at the crease, comfortably the longest by any Saurashtra batsman, for 16 before becoming Kulkarni’s fourth victim. A first spell of 9-5-13-3 set the tone for Kulkarni, who fittingly picked up the final wicket, ending with a match haul of nine for 56. Agarkar, who ended with four for 15, won his seventh Ranji title and his first as captain.