After five attritional days of cricket, Saurashtra riding on the advantage of batting first on the pitch with progressively variable bounce and getting on the lower side pips Bengal to take a first innings lead early on 5th day of a excruciatingly slow scoring match. And with hardly any time left for an outright result ,the vital first innings lead sealed the maiden Ranji title for Saurashtra . Batting first at Rajkot, the hosts were 206/5 after first day with Bengal pacers managing to strike in the last session to keep match in balance. Openers Harvik Desai and Banot (54) had an opening stand of 82 followed by a solid 54 from Viswashar Jadeja. Though Sheldon Jackson(14) went cheaply , southpaw Arpit Vasavada played solidly for his 106 on the 2nd day and well supported by an indisposed Cheteswar Pujara ,who made a slow and resolute 66 off 237 balls . Vasavada was however lucky not to be given out lbw when he looked plumb at 14 , a decision which had a big impact on the match. With some crucial late runs added by Unadkat ,Saurashtra ended at 425 allout. For Bengal , fast bowler Akash Deep was most impressive with 4/98 , Shahbaz took 3/103 but Ishan Porel after a great semifinal , had a tough outing on a unresponsive pitch with just 1 wicket .
Bengal were always playing catch up with the brittle top order not making much headway as skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran ,himself struggling for runs ,had to fall prey to another ordinary umpiring decision as the ball looked to be missing the stumps . However resolute displays by Sudip Chatterjee (81) and Manoj Tewary (35) kept Bengal interested as they progressed to 134/3 at the end of 3rd day . The 4th day had another resolute partnership between Wriddhiman Saha (64) and Anustup Majumder (63). Saha rode on his luck , surviving a questionable DRS decision in the process and got out at the wrong time but played some gorgeous shots in between . Anustup after big matchwinning 100s in quarters and semis once again looked the man to take Bengal through but finally Unadkat got his first wicket of the game on 5th morning getting a determined looking Majumder lbw with Bengal still 64 runs behind and that sealed the game in Saurashtra’s favour with remaining 3 Bengal wickets adding only 20 more runs as Bengal folded up for 381 . That first innings lead was enough for Saurashtra to lift the trophy . The match was called off after Saurashtra reached 104/4 in 2nd innings with no chance of any outright result.
With both teams fiercely looking for the Ranji title ,the game was played with intensity but with some negative batting mindset specially by Saurashtra, who virtually killed the chance of an outright result by batting extremely slowly for 1st 2 days scoring only 384!! Added to that , the pitch came in for some criticism with ball keeping low from 1st day itself. However the biggest disappointment was the standard of umpiring and very wierd half usage of DRS whereby if the umpire thinks and states that the ball is leaving the stumps ,the bowling team cannot take DRS and this resulted in the only centurion of the match , Vasavada escaping at 14 in Saurashtra’s 1st innings . Also Easwaran had to go as on field umpire ruled it out when the ball looked to be missing the leg stump but complete usage of DRS was not in operation in the finals. However the biggest howler happened when a straight forward lbw decision against Saha was turned down by 3rd umpire stating that 2 sounds were heard!!! Using DRS in a half hearted manner led to major chaos in this Ranji final and one hopes that the BCCI top bosses has taken note of this and allow full usage of DRS in India’s most important domestic cricket match.
However ,on the whole it was fitting that Saurashtra after 3 runners up in last 7 years finally wins the Ranji trophy as they were due for one. Bengal ,one feels will have their turn very soon as they showed tremendous resilience batting 2nd chasing 425 on a progressively difficult pitch to bat where balls were squatting through very low. With a strong coaching personality in former Bengal cricketer Arunlal at the helm ,who is a great motivator , the Porels and Majumders will be a formidable outfit if they keep this momentum of 2019-20 season.