The summit clash of the Ranji Trophy 2022-23 concluded with Jaydev Unadkat-led Saurashtra lifting the coveted trophy. They beat Bengal by 9 wickets to lift their second title in three seasons of the tournament. Captain Unadkat led from the front as the left-arm pacer picked nine wickets in the game. Harvik Desai, Chirag Jani, and Arpit Vasavada also chipped in with half-centuries.
Unadkat was also named the Player of the Match for his nine-wicket haul in the match.
Saurashtra maintained an advantage throughout the final, winning it early in the first session on Day 4. Bengal were left with a lot to do after Saurashtra racked up 404 after being bowled out for 174 in their first innings.
Bengal, who were 169/4 at the halfway point of their second essay and had lost their substantial first innings lead of 230 runs, collapsed for 241, leaving the visitors with a meagre 12-run target. In reply, it only took 16 deliveries for Saurashtra to finish the short chase and win the championship clash.
With 3 wickets in the first innings and a 6-wicket haul in the second, Unadkat showed that he still has what it takes to play cricket at the highest level. It was a whole team effort with the bat as five players scored 50 or more, and it took just 2.4 overs to chase down the total and win the final by 9 wickets.
Unadkat led the pace attack ably earlier in the morning session following the bizarre run-out of Bengal batter Shahbaz Ahmed for 27. The seasoned Saurashtra captain added four more scalps to his overnignt tally of two.
Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary (68) and Anustup Majumdar (61) slammed heroic half-centuries, but the home team's top-order batters, including the promising Abhimanyu Easwaran, who scored 0 and 16 in the two innings, let them down.
Sudip Gharami, Bengal's No. 3 who was in good form coming into the final, scoring 112 and 41 in the semifinal against Madhya Pradesh and aggregating more than 800 runs this season, struggled as well, scoring 0 and 14 in the two innings. Sumanta Gupta's debut in a Ranji final turned out to be a nightmarish one, with the top-order batter struggling for technique.
Tiwary and Shahbaz Ahmed, the overnight pair, committed hara-kiri while going for a third run. Saurashtra's first scalp of the day came in the form of Ahmed's run-out. Tiwary was dismissed for 68 runs chasing a wide delivery from Unadkat. Bengal were reduced to 205/9 in no time.
But, Bengal's last-wicket pair of Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel added 36 runs off 37 balls to avoid the ignominy of an innings defeat.
Released from India's squad for the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series against Australia, Unadkat took 3/44 in Bengal's first innings and returned to haunt the former Ranji champions again in their second dig, picking up 6 wickets. Fellow left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya provided him excellent support, picking up 3/33.
Arpit Vasavada was adjudged the Player of the Series for his consistent run this Ranji season while Unadkat received the Man of the Match award for his nine wickets in in the match.
"Championships are not won by one or 2-3 games. It's a long season. It began when we started the white ball season. We didn't win the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy but we were able to win the Vijay Hazare Trophy (VH). When we got together for the Ranji Trophy there was one huddle before the start of the season.
I told them yes we have won VH but the big one (Ranji) is waiting for us. If you want to win that we have to work really hard and I am absolutely proud of the guys for what we have been able to achieve twice in three years now. That is the secret of our success I would say (core of the team remaining the same). Lot of stability in the team. Comes with performances," Unadkat said.
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(With ANI inputs)