A clinical Ranji champions Vidarbha reasserted their supremacy in the domestic arena, beating a star-studded Rest of India to retain the Irani Cup, making it back-to-back seasons of double delight. Vidarbha has now become the third team after Mumbai and Karnataka to clinch two Irani Cup titles in a row. And in a touching gesture, Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal announced that the entire prize money will be donated to the families of the CRPF personnel martyred in the dastardly terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14.
"We as a team have decided to donate the prize money to the family of the martyrs who lost their lives in Pulwama. This is a small gesture from our team and VCA," Fazal said.
Set a tricky target of 280, Vidarbha were well and truly on course at 269 for five, needing only 11 runs for an outright victory. However, the two teams decided to shake hands and settle for a draw.
The victory was a testimony to Vidarbha's teamwork as they defeated a Rest of India side comprising Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal without their season's top scorer Wasim Jaffer and pacer Umesh Yadav.
It was another senior Ganesh Satish (87 off 168 balls) and young U-19 international Atharva Taide (72 off 185 balls), who ensured that the Cup will remain in the Vidarbha Cricket Association's Trophy cabinet.
Also, others like opener Sanjay Ramaswamy (42) and Mohit Kale (37) chipped in with handy knocks, while wicket-keeper Akshay Wadkar remained unbeaten on 10.
And their skipper Faiz Fazal would certainly be pleased with the fact that his boys nearly pulled off an outright win chasing a near 300-score on a fifth-day track. Resuming their innings on 37/1, Ramaswamy and one down Taide added 116 runs for the second wicket.
It was young Rajasthan leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, who trapped Ramaswamy in front of the wicket as Vidarbha were 116-2.
While Ramaswamy stuck four boundaries and a six, Taide was a tad more aggressive striking eight fours and a six, as the duo kept Rest bowlers at bay.
After Ramaswamy fell, Satish joined hands with Taide. The two managed to add 30 runs for the third wicket before Chahar again struck, trapping Taide plumb in-front.
But Taide's departure did not deter Satish, who played the sheet anchor's role to perfection. During his 168-ball stay at the crease, he hammered the ROI bowlers, nine boundaries and a six. He got able support from Mohit Kale, who hit four fours in his brief but crucial innings.
After Satish, the curtains came down on the hard-fought game, in which Vidarbha emerged triumphant.
First-innings centurion Akshay Karnewar was declared as the man of the match as his century enabled Vidarbha to get a crucial 95-run lead.
Brief Scores: Rest of India 330 and 374/3 declared drew with Vidarbha 425 and 269/5 (Ganesh Satish 87, Atharva Taide 72, Sanjay Ramaswamy 42, Rahul Chahar 2-116, Ankit Rajpoot 1-41)