Saurashtra 353 (Pujara 126) and 21 for 0 beat Assam 234 (Verma 98, Arun Karthik 59, Unadkat 6-77) & 126 (Unadkat 5-45) by 10 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Saurashtra entered their first Ranji Trophy final in three seasons © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Jaydev Unadkat’s second five-wicket haul that took his match tally to 11 scalps triggered Assam’s disintegration and facilitated Saurashtra’s win that gave them their first entry into the final in three seasons. Assam, after bowling out Saurashtra for 353 shortly after lunch on Day 3, crashed out for 139 inside 40 overs. Saurashtra then wiped out the 21 runs required in just 3.1 overs.
A familiar implosion – a fragile top order has undone much of Assam’s good work with the ball – ended their fine run this season, as Unadkat and Hardik Rathod spliced through the batting in the second session. Assam’s openers, Rahul Hazarika and Pallavkumar Das, briefly looked settled but some persistent hustling and sharp fielding produced the first wicket.
After Pallavkumar jabbed at a length delivery that deflected off his pad, Avi Barot, at short leg, thrust out his left hand in a flash and plucked a fine reflex catch. Spurred by the early incentive, Unadkat cranked up his pace in the next over, and a tentative Hazarika, who was reprieved at slip, was unsure of whether he should leave or play at a delivery outside off stump, played on.
Like in the first innings, Unadkat and Rathod were helping each other out by bowling tightly at their respective ends, without dropping off on pace. Rathod got his share of the spoils when Tarjinder Singh edged him to second slip.
Assam were soon reduced to 46 for five as Unadkat and Rathod removed Amit Verma and captain Gokul Sharma in successive overs. Verma, Assam’s top-scorer in the first innings, blazed away to 16, all in boundaries, before Unadkat had him nicking behind. Sharma’s, though, was largely an unforced error, as he pushed at one wide outside off stump.
KB Arun Karthik and J Syed Mohammad seemed best placed to build a partnership, especially as Unadkat and Rathod were given a breather, but yet another loose shot that curtailed such hopes. Arun Karthik cut a short delivery straight to point, and from that point the game appeared destined to end in a few hours.
Syed resisted to ensure that Saurashtra batted again but it was only a minor consolation.
In the morning, Assam’s seam-bowling pair of Krishna Das and Arup Das ensured that Saurashtra weren’t let off the hook as easily as they were on Sunday evening. They gave away only 14 runs in the first 10 overs of the day, and in the 11th Krishna’s ploy of going round the stumps was rewarded immediately. Cheteshwar Pujara pushed early at a delivery that seemed to approach him slower than he expected and the ball lobbed up for short cover to complete an easy take as he walked back for 126.
When Krishna removed Unadkat, who chipped in with a handy 18-ball 14, the score was 288 for 7. Here is where Assam let the horse bolt with their now familiar shoddy catching. Dharmendrasinh Jadeja was dropped in successive overs – first at second slip and the then by the wicketkeeper Arun Karthik, both regulation chances. It allowed him to stick around first with Chirag Jani (43) and then Deepak Poonia (42*) as Saurashtra added 65 runs for the last three wickets, with Punia whacking Purkayastha for three consecutive sixes in an over.
It eventually took Verma’s part-time leg breaks to end Saurashtra’s innings as Jadeja and Rathod were dismissed in the first over after lunch.
Sanath Kumar, the Assam coach, rued his team’s lack of batting discipline, and admitted that conceding a first-innings lead of 119 runs had deflated them. “They [Assam’s batsmen] tried to play too many shots. There was no patience,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “If there was some batting discipline I think we could have scored 300 runs. It was a good wicket. The pitch started spinning also, and it could have been tough to chase on the fourth day. In the future if we want to do better we have to be more consistent with our batting. That’s an area we have to drastically improve. “
Jaydev Shah, the Saurashtra captain, on the other hand, was pleased with the flexibility of his side. “We won our first three games on turners in Rajkot, but then our bowlers have done really well on seaming tracks. This win is a really good confidence booster.”
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo