Vidarbha edge ahead after attritional day's play
Stumps Vidarbha 312 all out and 55 for 2 (Satish 24*, Jaffer 5*, Jadeja 2-36) lead Saurashtra 307 all out (Patel 102, Unadkat 46, Sarwate 5-98, Wakhare 4-80) by 60 runs
The spin duo of Aditya Sarwate and Akshay Wakhare picked up nine wickets between them to give Vidarbha a slender five-run first-innings lead, but Saurashtra were very much in the contest at close of play on the third day in Nagpur.
By close of play, Vidarbha had reached 55 for two, with Ganesh Satish on 24 and Wasim Jaffer on five. Faiz Fazal, the captain, and R Sanjay are both back in the change-room, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja's left-arm spin having accounted for both of them.
It's a handy position to be in for Vidarbha, on a pitch with few demons on view so far, though it hasn't always been easy to score on. That said, Saurashtra have built a reputation as a chasing team, topping 372 - a Ranji Trophy record - in the quarter-final against Uttar Pradesh and then 279 against Karnataka in the semi-final. Vidarbha will be aware of that.
Starting the day on a precarious 158 for 5 in response to the defending champions' 312, Saurashtra slid to 184 for 7 when Patel fell to Umesh Yadav for 102. But - like in the Vidarbha first innings - the last few batsmen came good, taking them to 307 before the last wicket fell in the middle session.
Unadkat and last-man Chetan Sakariya had taken Saurashtra to lunch at 284 for nine, having already added 37 for the final wicket. They added 23 more before Wakhare finally had Unadkat's number, getting the Saurashtra captain to sweep one to Sanjay at backward square-leg. Unadkat made 46, while Sakariya remained unbeaten on 28.
Prerak Mankad, overnight on 16, was the first to be dismissed on the day, trapped in front by left-arm spinner Sarwate, who later completed a five-wicket haul. Patel brought up his century, sweeping Akshay Karnewar for four, but didn't last long after that, Umesh getting one to move away off a good length to catch the edge of the bat for the wicketkeeper to take a low catch.
Umesh bowled with pace and fire, and found movement too, but wasn't able to make further inroads, even with the new ball that was taken as soon as it was available - if anything, the harder ball went for quite a few runs as Jadeja and Kamlesh Makvana were able to make use the bowler's pace, a rarity for the most part in the innings.
Prior to that, Jaffer missed a regulation slip catch off Jadeja, and the batsman rubbed it in by smacking offspinner Wakhare over midwicket for a six - which also brought up the team's 200.
Jaffer, however, held on to a tougher chance not long after when Sarwate got the still-new ball to jump sharply off the pitch and induced the edge from Jadeja. It went fast at head-height to Jaffer, and he clung on even as he tumbled backwards. That made it five for the innings for the impressive Sarwate.
Jadeja had scored 23, and Makvana made 27 before offering another straightforward chance to Jaffer off Wakhare. The Unadkat-Sakariya stand then took over, and did well to almost give Saurashtra the lead.