Rana rules, Delhi end Vidarbha unbeaten run
However, Delhi capped a remarkable turnaround on the last day. The hosts rode on their positive batting to pull off the unlikely victory after resuming on 10 for no loss, reaching 348/4 to complete a six-wicket victory.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 23:20 IST
Delhi pulled off a great Ranji Trophy victory on Wednesday, handing two-time defending champions Vidarbha their first defeat since November, 2016—a 29-match streak—after unbeaten runs to the title in the last two seasons.
Set a 347-run target after the champions declared their second innings the previous evening, Delhi seemed down for the count, having lost pace spearhead Ishant Sharma to a bad injury on Day 2 and then allowed the visiting side to pile on the runs at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground.
However, Delhi capped a remarkable turnaround on the last day. The hosts rode on their positive batting to pull off the unlikely victory after resuming on 10 for no loss, reaching 348/4 to complete a six-wicket victory.
Left-handed batsman Nitish Rana blasted 105 not out off 68 balls after openers Kunal Chandela (75) and Hiten Dalal (82) had set it up by sharing in a 163-run partnership, having guided the team to 103 at lunch to build confidence against a bowling attack that included Umesh Yadav.
Not since December 2017, in the semi-final against Bengal, had Delhi seen an opening pair put up a century partnership. Vidarbha’s previous loss had come over a year before that.
“I told the team that if we get a good opening stand, I’ll ensure we win the match. I was confident as it was a good wicket to bat on,” Rana said after the game.
Rana said he asked coach KP Bhaskar to let him bat at No. 3, ahead of captain Dhruv Shorey, to have a left-right combination at the crease and counter the left-arm spin of Aditya Sarwate, who had claimed seven wickets in the first innings.
His battle wasn’t merely against Yadav, but also against the light. After curtailed play in the first three days due to poor light, there was sunshine. The wicket, tough to bat on the first two days, seemed to have eased from the third day with the green pitch turning a pale yellow with no cracks.
Rana kept a close watch on the western Bishan Singh Bedi Stand. “I was keeping an eye on that railing (just above the stand). I know that if the sun comes to that level, the light starts to become a problem.”
His aggressive stroke play didn’t allow match to drag on till the shadows lengthened and reached the pitch. The Mumbai Indians and LB Shastri Club batsman, who had scored a century and 92 earlier this season, struck seven sixes, four of them off seamers, and nine fours.
Not even the negative outside off-stump line, with a 7-2 field, Vidarbha maintained for 8-10 overs, deterred him as he reached out to play shots.
When pacer Rajneesh Gurbani and Co started bowling a negative line, the umpires called wide. And when the bowlers then bowled closer to the stumps, it allowed Rana to go for his shots—big hits over long on, long-off and mid-wicket.
Rana was lucky when the target was just under 40, after his hit to long-off against Yadav was dropped by Thakare. Delhi also laboured in the final stretch with wicketkeeper Anuj Rawat struggling to rotate the strike and lengthening shadows caused some concern. But after the final drinks break, Rawat struck three boundaries off Yadav and Rana hammered two sixes and a four off off-spinner Akshay Wakhare to seal the affair.
“We had lost the final against Vidarbha two seasons back. It was not that we had played badly then,” recalled Rana, who criticised Vidarbha fielders for time wasting. Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal, who was at the helm in this 29-game unbeaten run, had no regret for declaring overnight. “It is just that they batted brilliantly.”
Vidarbha 179 and 330/4 declared. Delhi 163 and 348/4 (Nitish Rana 105 no, Kunal Chandela 75, Hiten Dalal 82). Delhi won by 6 wickets. Points: Delhi 6. Vidarbha 0.
Gujarat 281 and 167. Punjab 229 and 109 all out (Gurkeerat 34; Nagwaswalla 5/50). Gujarat won by 110 runs. Points: Gujarat 6, Punjab 0.
Uttar Pradesh 625/8 declared. Mumbai 688/7 (Sarfaraz Khan 301*; Siddesh Lad 98; Ankit Rajpoot 3/133). Match drawn. Mumbai 3 points, UP 1.
Himachal 496. Baroda 150/2 (Vishnu Solanki 85*; Vaibhav Arora 1/42). Match drawn. Himachal 1, Baroda 1.
Saurashtra 344 and 256/9 (Harvik Desai 115, Cheteshwar Pujara 69; Gourav Yadav 4/65). Madhya Pradesh
280 and 223/9. Match drawn.