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Ranji Trophy final: Vidarbha capitulate; Ajinkya Rahane finds form on Day 2

Mumbai rout Vidarbha for 105 and the Rahane-Musheer unbroken century stand puts hosts 260 runs ahead on Day 2.

Ajinkya Rahane led the way back to the change room with bat raised, an honour accorded to the standout performer of the day. Along with his teammates in the dressing room, from a floor above in the president’s box, Sunil Gavaskar was up in applause. For a man who delivered an iconic Test hundred at Melbourne among his 12 for India, an unbeaten Ranji Trophy fifty shouldn’t be a big deal. But this 58* (109b) was, on the second day of the final against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium.

Ajinkya Rahane celebrates his half-century during the second day of the Ranji Trophy final cricket match between Mumbai and Vidarbha(PTI)

The 35-year-old Mumbai skipper had watched his No.10 and 11 score hundreds in this campaign while he struggled to middle the ball. So wretched had his season been that his tally across 11 previous innings was 134 runs. “We celebrated it like it was a hundred,” said left-arm spinner Shams Mulani. Mulani and off-spinner Tanush Kotian took three wickets piece after retiring pacer Dhawal Kulkarni added a third as former champions Vidarbha were bundled out for 105 in just 45.3 overs, having resumed on 31/3 in reply to Mumbi’s first innings 224.

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At stumps on Day 2, Rahane’s 107-run third wicket partnership with Musheer Khan — the 19-year-old was batting on a patient 51 – took Mumbai to 141/2. The overall lead of 260 has put the 41-time champions in command and they will be confident of securing their 42nd Ranji title. When the day began, Vidarbha, 193 runs behind, were very much in the contest. Their hopes rested mainly on opener Atharva Taide (23).

Pacer Dhawal Kulkarni struck the body blow by having the left-handed batter caught behind. Meticulously working on Taide’s off-stump game, Kulkarni got one to leave him, and then got one to beat the inside edge and the leg before appeal was upheld. Taide took the DRS, which showed the ball had pitched outside leg-stump. A bouncer was left alone, but Kulkarni drew the batter forward next and got the ball to nip away sharply, catching the edge.

It was the kind of disciplined over that made Kulkarni Mumbai’s second highest wicket taker among pacers, behind the late Ramakant Desai. Following up on his 6-2-9-2 overnight spell, Kulkarni’s morning spell read 5-3-6-1. Only Yash Rathod (27) did numerically better as Vidarbha crumbled against Mumbai’s spin.

With the 119-run lead, all Mumbai batters had to do was to bat big. Yash Thakur’s peach of an inswinger castled Prithvi Shaw (11) early and fellow opener Bhupen Lalwani (18) didn’t last long, falling to left-arm spinner Harsh Dubey. But young Musheer stuck around as Rahane was willing to grind his way back to form.

Woefully out of form, Rahane could have adopted the attacking route, which has usually got him out of jail when runs dried up in white-ball cricket. But the pitch had eased up and he knew the more he batted, the more Vidarbha bowlers would wilt after their tiring work in the semi-final win over Madhya Pradesh. They had bowled 176 overs across two innings and had only three days before the final. After surviving an early DRS call following Umesh Yadav’s unsuccessful leg before appeal, Rahane’s first boundary was an on-drive as he got his feet moving. 

Rahane showed first signs of being in command when he flicked left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate past mid-wicket. Soon, a bouncer was put in place. As the bowlers began to miss their lengths, he rocked back and sent Sarwate’s long hop for six over mid-wicket. A glorious cover drive brought up his fifty (58* – 109b, 4×4, 1×6). Musheer (51* — 135b, 3×4) showed great patience and stuck to the task at the other end as the pair slowly but surely dimmed Vidarbha’s trophy dreams.

“We are youngsters who haven’t touched the Ranji Trophy. That’s a very big motivation for us. That’s the only thing we have been talking about. We know, to lift the trophy we need to win every session,” said Mulani.


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