Kerala's worst fears came true as history was repeated at the Perinthalamanna Cricket Ground on Saturday. For the second time within a week at this venue, the host came close to outright victory but had to settle a first innings lead, as Vidarbha snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat in this Ranji Trophy Plate Group ‘B' match.
When bad light stopped the play, with 16 overs remaining, Kerala had needed just two more wickets; the visiting side was 139 for eight in its second innings, still needing another 83 to avoid an innings defeat.
It was a combination of gritty batting from opener Amit Deshpande, who batted for nearly six hours for his 68, bad weather and the lack of depth in Kerala's bowling that rescued Vidarbha on the final day. The host's decision to bat on late into the final session on the penultimate day did not help, either.
It was a remarkable comeback though by Vidarbha, which was reeling at 49 for six at one stage, after resuming at the overnight six for one. Left-arm seamer Prasanth Parameswaran had raised hopes of a Kerala win when he picked up two wickets in his first two overs.
A fourth-wicket stand of 37 by Deshpande and skipper Ranjit Paradkar (30) had begun to worry the Kerala boys, but part-time off-spinner Rohan Prem's three-wicket burst put them right back on top once again. Deshpande, however, found support from Ravi Jangid (28 not out) and the duo added 83 for the seventh wicket, which proved crucial in the end.
The second new ball broke that partnership, with Sony Cheruvathur trapping Deshpande in front. And when Prasanth Parameswaran had Azhar Sheikh caught behind — his seventh wicket of the match — the host seemed pretty close to its first victory in Ranji Trophy in two years.
Then, the light began to fade. As did Kerala's hopes.
Kerala gets three points from this game and has taken its tally to nine from three games, while Vidarbha has four, after getting a point from a match it would rather forget.
K.J. Rakesh was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 101.
Vidarbha — 1st Innings: 138.
Kerala — 1st Innings: 366 for eight decl.
Vidarbha — 2nd Innings: Amit Deshpande lbw b Sony 68, Akshay Kolhar c Hegde b Sreejith 3, Akshay Wakhare c Thejas b Prasanth Parameswaran 0, Alind Naidu b Prasanth Parameswaran 0, Ranjit Paradkar c Sreekumar b Rohan 30, Himanshu Joshi c Robert b Rohan 0, Amit Paunikar c & b Rohan 0, Ravi Jangid (not out) 28, Azhar Sheikh c Thejas b Prasanth Parameswaran 1, Shrikant Wagh (not out) 4, Extras (lb-1, nb-4) 5; Total (for eight wickets in 89 overs) 139.
Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-6, 3-8, 4-45, 5-45, 6-49, 7-132, 8-133.
Kerala bowling: Sony 18-6-22-1, Prasanth Parameswaran 14-5-25-3, Sreejith 16-8-30-1, Sreekumar 7-2-9-0, P. Prasanth 11-2-23-0, Rohan 15-7-16-3, Rakesh 3-2-2-0, Hegde 3-1-11-0, Jagadeesh 2-2-0-0 .