Cricket / Vishal Joshi, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja do the star turn

Saurashtra took a little over one and a half hours on Sunday morning to bring Punjab to its knees at the SCA stadium and enter the Ranji Trophy final.

There are instances of the erstwhile princely state of Nawanagar defeating Bengal to take the big prize in 1936-37 and finishing runner-up to Hyderabad in 1937-38, but this is the first time Saurashtra has made the title match after Nawanagar was merged with it in 1959.

Off- spinner Vishal Joshi who has played off and on in the last four years and left- arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, a freshman, spun out Punjab taking eight wickets and helped Saurashtra win the semifinal by 229 runs.

Joshi’s five for 43 turned out to be his best in six matches and he finished with match figures of nine for 102. Joshi actually tweaked a leg-break to deceive Sandeep Sharma to take his fifth wicket to clinch an emphatic and memorable victory for his side. Nearly two months ago Punjab had thrashed Saurashtra by eight wickets in a league match at Mohali.

Poor batting

The light roller was run on the pitch for ten minutes before the start of the final day’s play and skipper Jaydev Shah, in order to get over any effect of rolling, began the proceedings with seamers Jaydev Unadkat and Siddharth Trivedi. Shah realised the futility of his decision once Mandeep Singh pulled two boundary shots off Undakat.

The first bowling change and the immediate fall of Mandeep to a tossed up delivery that evoked a wicked response from the pitch was the first clear sign of a typical fifth day pitch offering much assistance to a smart and artful spinner. Mandeep stretched his left foot across without offering a shot and the off-break found its way underneath the bent left knee and hit the middle stump.

Soon the Punjab second innings, set a target of 349, disintegrated to a meagre 119. Ravi Inder Singh drove Joshi to substitute Chirag Pathak at cover. Thereafter Amitoze Singh showed hints of bravado and top-edged a sweep for Kamlesh Makwana to bring off a splendid catch at square -eg. The rest simply caved in.

It was quite an emotional moment for Niranjan Shah, vice-president of the BCCI, Secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association and father of the captain, Jaydev. Four seasons ago Saurashtra had won the Vijay Hazare Trophy (inter-State limited overs tournament) and reached the Ranji semifinals in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Recently it hosted the first one-day international against England at a modern cricket stadium in Khanderi village. Niranjan Shah was the first to congratulate the team along with the reserve players, support staff and other officials of the SCA.

Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra expressed happiness saying: “I played a Ranji final for Bengal under Ambar Roy against Bombay in 1968-69. I am happy to have done my bit and guide the team to the final. They have played as a team. The players treat me like their guru.”

“Each and every player contributed to this win. We have played as a team and that is why we are in the final. We would be glad to have Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, but they are serving the national team,” said Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah.

Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh said he has played on worse wickets and that some of the batsmen played rash shots. “There was only one spot on the pitch. When I look back at the match I would say that only Makwana and Mandeep got out to balls that were difficult to play. We have to learn to play on different wickets. The pitch at Mohali was like a garden. We won the toss and that is why we made a good start this season.”

The scores:

Saurashtra — 1st innings: 477.

Punjab — 1st innings: 299.

Saurashtra — 2nd innings: 170.

Punjab — 2nd innings: Jiwanjot Singh c Vasavada b Unadkat 11, Ravi Inder Singh c sub (Chiragh Pathak) b Joshi 25, T. Kohli c Kotak b Unadkat 13, Mandeep Singh b Joshi 33, Uday Kaul lbw b D. Jadeja 7, Amitoze Singh c Makwana b Joshi 5, B. Sharma c sub (S. Sanandiya) b D. Jadeja 0, Harbhajan Singh b Joshi 6, S. Kaul lbw b D. Jadeja 2, Sandeep Sharma b Joshi 12, S. Ladda (not out) 5; Total (in 40 overs) :119.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-30, 3-71, 4-82, 5-88, 6-91, 7-98, 8-102, 9-102.

Saurashtra bowling: Undakat 8-2-30-2, Makwana 4-0-15-0, Jadeja 14-3-25-3, Joshi 11-1-43-5, Trivedi 3-0-6-0.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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