A compact all-round show by the Saurashtra bowlers helped them take honours on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur on Sunday (February 3). Captain Jaydev Unadkat took two wickets and was backed by his bowlers as Vidarbha were reduced to 200/7 by the time stumps were drawn on the first day. Akshay Karnewar was unbeaten on 31 for the hosts and had Akshay Wakhare for company on 0. Opting to bat first on what looked like a fairly placid batting surface, Vidarbha were rocked early with Unadkat drawing first blood in the form of opener Sanjay Ramaswamy (2). The right-hander poked at an away-going delivery only to edge it straight into the hands of Arpit Vasavada at first slip who dived forward to complete the catch.
Soon after, a reckless piece of running by Faiz Fazal cost Vidarbha their second wicket as they slipped to 39/2 in the 11 over. Fazal tucked a leg-stump delivery wide of deep fine leg and while there was an easy two available, not anticipating the throw at his end, the left-hander took the second run lethargically. However, Chetan Sakariya anticipated well and a good flat throw found the Vidarbha captain short of his crease for 16.
It was down to the experienced Wasim Jaffer to infuse some sort of stability in the Vidarbha innings. He started off well and looked compact during his stay at the crease, a six off spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja signalling his intentions. But, just before the lunch interval Unadkat came back for a short burst and got the big fish. Bowling around the wicket, the left-arm pacer got the ball to hold its line and got Jaffer (23) to poke at it, which he could only edge, straight into the hands of wicket-keeper Snell Patel.
A visibly pumped Unadakat knew the importance of the wicket as Saurashtra went into lunch with their tails up having reduced the hosts to 67/3 after 33 overs. Saurashtra kept their own after the break as well with none of the bowlers giving anything away. Ganesh Sathish and Mohit Kale on their part did well to be patient as they batted time and kept chugging at the singles whenever needed. A six by Sathish off Jadeja broke the shackles before Kale too opened his shoulders with back-to-back fours to collect 15 off the 44th over which also took the hosts past the 100-run mark. Just when Vidarbha seemed to be clawing back into the game off-spinner Kamlesh Makvana struck, getting the prised scalp of Kale (35) and breaking the blossoming 46-run stand for the fourth wicket.
While Sathish and Akshay Wadkar took the side to tea, it was the visitors who had clearly taken the upper hand in the contest. That became even more visible in just the second over after the break when medium pacer Prerak Mankad took the big wicket of Sathish (32). The right-hander looking to leave a good length delivery outside off stump could not get his bat away in time and ended up edging one to the wicket-keeper who took a sharp chance. There was more disappointment in store for Vidarbha when Sarwate soon fell for a duck playing a premeditated sweep off Jadeja. As they slipped to 139/6, Vidarbha desperately needed someone to stand up and give the total some sort of respectability. Wadkar and Karnewar did just that for the next 22-odd overs. The duo took their time to settle in but were not afraid to take chances as the scoreboard trickled along.
It seemed they will take their side through to the end of the day's play but another captaincy brilliance from Unadkat broke the 57-run stand. Bringing Sakaria back into the attack late in the 88th over, Unadkat did not opt for the new ball. That paid dividends as the left-arm pacer banged one in short outside off but with no pace from the surface and the hardness of gone, the ball came slower off the deck and deceived Wadkar (45) who could only mistime a catch straight to Mankad and cover-point. Every Saurashtra bowler got at least a wicket each and was relentless all through the day not allowing the Vidarbha batsmen to get away even when some of the partnerships were blossoming.