Ranji Trophy: Photo finish in store for marathon first-innings final
The Ranji trophy final will be decided on the fifth day, with both sides in with a chance. Saurashtra are four wickets away from winning their maiden title, while Bengal are 71 runs short of winning it again after 30 years. The match may be set up for a thrilling finish, but the action has been otherwise. The winners will be declared by a first innings lead, which is yet to be completed going into the final day. Only 16 wickets fell over a period of four days. Being played on a slow and low Khanderi wicket, the final has been for no one else but the connoisseurs. Bengal toiled for 171.5 overs to get their opponents all out while Saurashtra have already bowled 147 overs.
Bengal, which for most part of the match played catchup, now finds itself in with a chance, all thanks to some positive stroke-play in Thursday’s final session. It was Bengal’s 35-year-old semi-final hero Anustup Majumdar and 32-year-old off-spinner Arnab Nandi who turned the tide away from Saurashtra.
Majumdar has done the rescue act throughout the season for Bengal. With his pulls, wristy flicks, footwork, Majumdar broke left-arm-spinner Dharmendra Jadeja’s rhythm. He was ably assisted by the enterprising batting of Nandi. Both produced an unbeaten stand of 90 at 3.6 runs per over in the final session.
Saurashtra could be left to rue their poor fielding, if they can’t close the match on the fifth day. Jadeja kept creating opportunities on a wicket which was refusing to crumble. However, the home side’s fielders kept putting the catches down. Two sharp bat-pad opportunities provided by Saha and Majumdar went abegging. Majumdar was dropped twice in the slips too, off Jadeja’s bowling. Saha, who also benefitted from a contentious lbw reversal by the TV umpire, had luck going his way throughout the innings.
Jaydev Unadkat and Chintan Sakariya opened the bowling again on the fourth morning and continued to be relentless. Their final burst to close the third day had been a solid examination of batsmen’s skill against the swinging ball. But they had no wickets to show.
Unadkat, attacking round the wicket, would have thought that lady luck would finally shine and it almost did when he trapped Wriddhiman Saha in his second over of the day. To his misfortune, the TV umpire S Ravi reversed the decision, due to an inside edge as per partial DRS in play. But multiple replays showed that it was a debatable call. It became evident Saha was living a charmed life, when he also survived a run-out chance messed up by the Saurashtra fielders.
Saha rubbed salt to Saurashtra’s wounds by stroking two back-to-back well-placed cover drives. He later danced down the track to hit Jadeja over long off too.
“Let’s enjoy this fellows,” Saurshtra fielders kept saying to keep their bowlers’ spirits in-tact. But the opening session belonged to Bengal, with overnight batsmen Saha and Sudip Chatterjee staying undefeated.
The home side did manage to wrest control back in the post-lunch session with three wickets. First, Chatterjee was caught at short-leg of Jadeja after a great innings of 81. Then, Saha was bowled by Prerak Mankad’s medium-pace on 61. Sakariya bowled Shabaz Ahmed with a ball angling in from round the wicket, for 16.
But with Majumdar unbeaten on 58 and Nandi at the crease on 28, Bengal finished Day 4 on 354/6. The visitors have made sure none of the two change rooms will be sleeping well.