The sixth – and final – round of group-stage matches in the Ranji Trophy featured close finishes and innings victories, and we identified some of the quarter-finals as well. But the highlight was Vidarbha defending 73 – the lowest target successfully defended in first-class cricket in India – against Gujarat, and winning by 18 runs in a dramatic victory.
Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka in quarterfinals
Sumit Kumar scored an unbeaten 70 and added 63 for the last wicket with Aman Kumar, but Deep’s 5 for 61 gave Bengal a 256-run lead and bowled Haryana out for 163. Bengal asked hosts Haryana to follow on, but in another batting collapse, Haryana were all out for 206 from 129 without loss. Deep again took 5 for 51, with Mukesh Kumar taking three wickets.
For Karnataka, captain Mayank Agarwal’s 208 gave them a 143-run first innings lead over Kerala at Thumba, which was enough to grab the three points and finish as table-toppers in their group.
In reply to Kerala’s 342, propelled by Sachin Baby’s 141, Karnataka declared at 484 for 9.
Kerala batted for 51 overs in their second innings and scored 96 runs for 4 wickets at the end of the game.
Apart from Agarwal, V Kaushik was the star performer for Karnataka, taking 6/54 in Kerala’s first innings.
Meanwhile, defending champions Madhya Pradesh already had 32 points in the sixth round, and despite an innings defeat to Punjab, made it to the quarter-finals.
Punjab asked MP to follow-on, and restricted them to 77 runs. On occasion, it was Arshdeep Singh, who took 4 for 30 as Punjab increased their chances of making it to the last eight.
Sarvate’s 11-floors for Gujarat
Left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate took figures of 5 for 64 and 6 for 17 as Vidarbha stunned Gujarat at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur. Gujarat were bundled out for 54 after failing to chase down 74 in the final innings. This was the record for the fewest first-class target successfully defended in India, topped by 78 by Bihar against Delhi at Jamshedpur. back in 1948-49,
Vidarbha won despite falling 182 runs behind in the first innings, as they themselves were bowled out for 74 in the first day’s play. Sanjay Raghunath scored 33 of them, while Chintan Gaja and Tejas Patel took five wickets each.
Sarwate opened with the ball in Gujarat’s first innings after opening the bowling before Arya Desai and Bhargav Merai added 117 runs for the second wicket. Arya top-scored with 88 as Gujarat lost five wickets for 41 runs in the lower order to finish on 256.
By then, the match had barely moved into the second day, and the action came thick and fast. In Vidarbha’s second innings, Raghunath, Atharva Tayde, Akshay Wadkar and Yash Rathore provided respectable starts before Jitesh Sharma counter-attacked with a 69 off just 53 balls – including four fours and five sixes.
Siddharth Desai took 6 for 74 to restrict Vidarbha to 254 and set Gujarat a target of 73, with only Sarwate and Harsh Dubey to run through their line-up. Only Desai reached double figures as Vidarbha scored six crucial points.
Andhra beat Saurashtra
Left-arm spinner Lalit Mohan took 11 wickets in the match – including a career-best 6 for 58 in the second innings – as Andhra beat Saurashtra by 150 runs in Rajkot in one of the results of the season.
In the first innings, Andhra batsmen till number 8 made useful contributions, with Ashwin Hebbar scoring 109 and Ricky Bhui scoring 80. This propelled them to 415, before Mohan took 5 for 71 to put Andhra on 178.
With a huge lead, Karan Shinde hit an unbeaten half-century even as Abhishek Reddy and skipper Hanuma Vihari picked up the pace in the second innings. Vihari declared on 164, and set Saurashtra 343, only for Mohan to get six more to consolidate the result despite Cheteshwar Pujara’s 91.
Bihar, Manipur qualify for plate final
After an impressive semi-final win over Meghalaya, Bihar qualified for the final of the Plate Group with a thumping 302-run win. Wicketkeeper-batsman Bipin Saurabh’s 177 helped them post 428 in the first innings before Meghalaya were bowled out for 134. But despite an advantage of 294 in the first innings, Bihar batted again.
However, Meghalaya bundled out Bihar for just 164 runs to keep their side afloat. Left-arm spinner Rajesh Bishnoi took 6/30 to give Meghalaya hope, but the target of 459 proved too out of reach.
It was not so easy for Manipur in Surat against Sikkim, whom they beat by just two wickets and chased down the target of 337 in the fourth innings. For Sikkim, player of the match Sumit Singh’s all-round efforts – 56 and 168 with the bat, and 6 for 60 with the ball in the second innings – went in vain as Manipur secured a memorable victory.
numbers that matter
Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat, who recently made a comeback into the India Test team, played in his 100th first-class match in their defeat at the hands of Andhra in Rajkot.
Bengal, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab remained unbeaten after six rounds of play in the Elite groups.