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Saurashtra get the glitter finally

Hosts lift the Trophy for the first time ever and create the Western axis in style

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 02:52 IST
G Krishnan

Rajkot celebrated like never before. Sunday became an important day in their cricket history and it will be remembered for a long time to come.

Saurashtra clinched the Ranji Trophy Plate Division title, scoring an innings and 34-run victory over Rajasthan at the Madhavrao Scindia ground with a day to spare. The hosts' triumph was celebrated with pomp and gaiety, with firecrackers shaking the ground once BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah handed over the trophy to his son Jaydev, the captain. Winning the Plate title was like winning the coveted national championship for the men from Kathiawad.

Saurashtra have had bad years, being at the receiving end against Mumbai, Baroda, Maharashtra in the West Zone before the Elite-Plate format came into existence in 2002-03.

They were placed so low in the Plate Division in the last couple of years that, had there been a provision for the teams to be relegated from Plate also, Saurashtra would have never figured in the national championship. It required a collective effort this year, first for the three wins in the league phase to enter the semifinals, and then for an inspired performance in the final against Rajasthan, who have come so far riding only on skipper Ajay Jadeja's brilliance and experience.

By emerging as Plate champions, Saurashtra now face the Herculean task of maintaining their place in the Elite division next season. They emulate Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana as being the previous Plate winners, and would look to imitate their performance to survive in Elite Division.

Earlier on Sunday, Saurashtra picked up the five remaining Rajasthan second innings wickets in less than two hours as the visitors were all out for 173. With half the side sent back on Saturday itself, Rajasthan's only interest was if they could make the home team bat again. That becoming a difficult proposition, they looked at skipper Jadeja reaching the three-figure mark, which also did not happen.

Rajasthan's overnight pair carried on for close to 45 minutes before Dishant Yagnik was bowled by a straightening delivery from Sandeep Johanputra to give the left-armer his sixth scalp. Meanwhile Jadeja, en route to 80, became the highest run getter in the Ranji Trophy this season. He batted freely, scoring 59 of the team's 74 runs on the day.

Jadeja's tally of 684 from 10 innings and seven matches pushed Mumbai's Amol Muzumdar's total of 672 from 12 innings and eight outings to second spot. Jadeja ran out of partners as left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruv accounted for the rest to finish with four for 18 including Jadeja's. The end would have come a little earlier had Saurashtra held on to a couple of catches that came their way. Yagnik, before adding to his overnight 21, was let off by Sitanshu Kotak at slips off Jobanputra.

Jadeja too was lucky, when on 31, Jaydev Shah at mid-off reacted late, Maniyar being the bowler. In going for his shots, Jadeja was lucky again when, batting on 59, Maniyar spilled an easy chance at long leg. But Saurashtra more than made up for it when Kamlesh Mokwana brought off a stupendous catch at long-on to remove Jadeja and signal Saurashtra's triumph. Mokwana ran to his right and dived to pluck the ball single-handedly. This left even Jadeja applauding the effort from the middle of the pitch.

Jadeja, who finished with an impressive average of 97.71, did not know if he would continue with Rajasthan next season. He also said that his batsmen and fielders were a failure this season. "They took it easy as they thought they had Ajay Jadeja to do the scoring," said Jadeja. "My aim was to build the team and help Rajasthan qualify for Elite Division. The youngsters needed to bat well, but they did not. The fielding was also disappointing as we dropped 48 catches this season, most of them in the slips. This shows how well our bowlers have bowled," he said.

Hirwani retires

PTI adds: LEG-SPINNER Narendra Hirwani announced his retirement from first class cricket on Sunday after spinning the ball for nearly 23 years.

When asked whether injustice has been done with him as he was in and out of the Indian team quite frequently, he said the selection and omission are the domain of the team management and added that "injustice is the part of the life".

Scoreboard

Rajasthan 1st innings 201

Saurashtra 1st innings 408

Rajasthan 2nd innings

MR Beerala b Jobanputra 9, Rohit Sharma b Jobanputra 10, NS Doru lbw b Jobanputra 18, GK Khoda c Jogiyani b Jobanputra 0, RJ Kanwat c Kotak b Jobanputra 8, DH Yagnik b Jobanputra 22, A Jadeja c Makvana b Dhurv 80, Afroz Khan b Dhurv 2, S Gehlot c Joshi b Dhurv 3, Pankaj Singh b Dhurv 0, M Aslam not out 0

Extras (b 8, lb 7, w 2, nb 4) 21

Total (all out in 56.2 ovs) 173

Fall of wkts: 1-21, 2-33, 3-33, 4-43, 5-64, 6-129, 7-140, 8-152, 9-152

Bowling: Maniyar 18-5-61-0, Jobanputra 26-7-77-6, Dhruv 10.2-4-18-4, Makvana 2-0-2-0.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 02:52 IST