Unadkat bowls Saurashtra to Ranji triumph

Jaydev Unadkat
Saurashtra's captain Jaydev Unadkat celebrates with teammates after dismssing Manoj Tiwary. Photo: PTI: Swapan Mahapatra

Kolkata:  Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat returned a match haul of nine wickets, including 6/85 in the second innings, as Saurashtra thrashed Bengal by nine wickets in the summit clash to clinch their second Ranji Trophy title here on Sunday.

Having given away a big first innings lead of 230 runs, Bengal, who were overnight 169/4 in their second essay, folded up for 241, handing the visitors a mere 12-run target to win the final.

Saurashtra lost their opening batter Jay Gohil (0) off the bowling of Akash Deep but eventually went past the target, reaching 14 for 1 in 2.4 overs, to wrap up the match with one day and two full sessions to spare.

Saurashtra's earlier triumph was in 2019-20 season when they defeated Bengal on the basis of first innings lead. In the last 10 seasons, they have made the final on five occasions, underlining their consistency.

A Ranji Trophy title eluded Bengal yet again. They last won it in 1998-90 when they defeated a star-studded Delhi at the same Eden Gardens. Their first title had come in 1938-39 in the pre-independence era.

Earlier in the morning session, Unadkat showed the way after a freak run-out of Bengal batter Shahbaz Ahmed (27). The veteran Saurashtra skipper added four wickets to his overnight tally of two.

The old Bengal warhorse duo of skipper Manoj Tiwary (68) and Anustup Majumdar (61) slammed valiant half-centuries but the home side were let down by their top-order batters, including the promising Abhimanyu Easwaran who scored 0 and 16 in the two innings.

In-form No. 3 batter Sudip Gharami, fresh from a 112 and 41 in the semifinal against Madhya Pradesh and has 800-plus runs this season, also came a cropper and scored 0 and 14 in the two innings.

The decision to hand debut to Sumanta Gupta in a Ranji final also will rankle Bengal as he did not show any technique of a top-order batter and perished to an outgoing delivery.

State sports minister-cum-cricketer Tiwary had delayed his retirement to win a Ranji title from his fourth final, and it remains to be seen whether he continue to play in the upcoming season.

Earlier, the overnight duo of Tiwary and Shahbaz Ahmed committed hara-kiri while going for a third run. Ahmed had to sacrifice his wicket to give Saurahshtra their first breakthrough of the day.

It also unsettled Tiwary as he followed suit and got out for 68 after chasing a wide delivery from Unadkat.

In no time, Bengal were reduced to 205/9, still trailing by 25 runs.

But, Bengal's last pair of Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel avoided the ignominy of an innings defeat, scoring 36 runs in 37 balls to delay the inevitable.

Unadkat, who was released from the Indian Test side to play in the Ranji final, had bagged 3/44 in the Bengal first innings. He was ably supported by fellow left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya (3/33) after they opted to bowl on a lively pitch.

Having prepared a green-top, Bengal were caught in their own web as their top-order batters showed complete lack of application on the opening day.

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