Gutsy Vidarbha claim maiden Ranji title
Indore: Armed with a newfound self-belief and zest to go the extra mile, Vidarbha scripted a new chapter in the region's cricket history by winning their maiden Ranji Trophy, comfortably defeating Delhi by nine wickets in the final here on Monday.
Set a measly 29 for victory, Vidarbha completed the formality in just five overs at the Holkar Stadium that had welcomed with open arms the family members of the cricketers, including skipper Faiz Fazal's.
After Wasim Jaffer, one of the three professionals in the side, pulled Kulwant Khejroliya towards the fine leg boundary, the team broke into a joyous huddle, gave each other a bear hug and soon clicked with the trophy.
The victory chant followed as an elated Fazal hugged his mother took and held his daughter. The wife and sisters basked in Fazal's glory.
In between, there was a high five with his "mom", before the triumphant captain looked for his father, who too stood there happily.
Mumbai veteran Jaffer pulled Khejroliya four times as the bowler banged in short. Winning the Ranji title is not new for Jaffer, as he has been a part of Mumbai's nine triumphs, but it was the first time he hit the winning runs.
That the tournament ended in a triumph for Fazal, who has been there for 15 seasons, was appropriate as he led the side from the front, scoring nearly 900 runs.
Opting to field after winning the toss, Vidarbha bowled out Delhi for 295 in the first innings with Man of the Match Rajneesh Gurbani picking up six wickets.
In reply, Vidarbha notched up a mammoth 547 all out as Akshay Wadkar struck his maiden century in first-class cricket. Overnight 528 for seven, with wicketkeeper Wadkar unbeaten on 133, Delhi quickly picked up the remaining three wickets in the morning. Young pacer Navdeep Saini was the most successful bowler for Delhi, returning figures of 5 for 135 after bowling a marathon 36.3 overs.
Delhi were a bowler short through the Vidarbha first innings as left-arm spinner Manan Sharma remained off the field due to a knee injury. Manan, though, batted in the second innings.
In their second innings, Delhi were all out for 280, with Shorey scoring another half-century — a 142-ball 62 — while Nitish Rana struck 64.
Vidarbha chased down the target with plenty to spare at a stadium, which was hosting the title clash of the country's premier domestic tournament for the second successive time after playing host to Mumbai and Gujarat last season. Trailing by 252 runs, Delhi lost opener Kunal Chandela with just 32 runs on the board. And a bigger blow was dealt on the seven-time winners when their most experienced campaigner, Gautam Gambhir, in what looked like a debatable decision, was adjudged out lbw off Gurbani to a ball that seemed to be heading down the leg side.
The out-of-favour India opener looked in good touch during his quick 36 off 37 balls (32 coming in boundaries), and could have helped Delhi's cause had he stayed longer.
First-innings centurion Shorey and Rana then added 110 runs for the third wicket. They went to lunch at lunch 74 for two with Shorey and Rana combining well.
The second session saw Shorey and Rana playing freely, hitting some lovely drives and flicks. However, as the team score reached 164, Delhi lost Shorey, who was given a reprieve by Jaffer in first slip, to the left-arm spin of Aditya Sarwate.
Rana followed suit as he nicked the impressive Gurbani to Wadkar behind the stumps. Like in the first innings, Gurbani was again bowling his heart out and swung the new ball to good effect.
Himmat Singh, who had a fifty in the first essay, was bowled by off-spinner Akshay Wakhare before he could open his account.
And then came a reckless shot by skipper Rishabh Pant (32), an attempted heave off Siddhesh Neral leading to his dismissal as Delhi ran out of batting options. This was an over after Pant was let off by Wadkar, who missed an easy stumping chance.
A few lusty blows by Vikas Mishra and Akash Sudan helped Delhi to erase the deficit, make Vidarbha bat again and avoid the ignominy of being handed an innings defeat in the title clash.
For a change, Fazal got out early but Jaffer, who has been playing the role of mentor alongside coach Chandrakant Pandit for these youngsters with a bright future, was there to guide the side home.