Saurashtra spin into first final since 1937-38
Saurashtra 477 (Jackson 107, Shah 87, Makvana 85) and 170 (Kotak 53, Harbhajan 4-60, Kaul 3-53) beat Punjab 299 (Ravi Inder 74, Joshi 4-59) and 119 (Joshi 5-43) by 229 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Saurashtra spun their way into their first Ranji Trophy final since 1937-38, in the process making a mockery of the outside chance Punjab gave themselves by bowling the hosts out for 170 on the fourth day. Punjab began the day needing 304 runs with eight wickets in hand, but couldn't even last one session against the spin combine of Vishal Joshi and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja. Joshi, playing his sixth first-class match, completed his first five-for when he bowled the last man Sandeep Sharma with a legbreak.
That was perhaps the only time when Joshi deviated from his policy of bowling flighted offbreaks that he ripped in from the rough outside the right-hand batsmen's off stump. It was evident Joshi imparted more revolutions on the ball than any other bowler on display, and he drew maximum results.
Joshi came on to bowl when the overnight batsmen Ravin Inder Singh and Mandeep Singh had made a confident resumption against the medium-pacers. Against Joshi, though, it wasn't that easy. Mandeep looked to pad away one wide delivery, misjudged the line and stretched too far. The ball spun back in sharply, and snuck under the knee to rip the middle stump out. An almighty collapse followed.
Ravi Inder didn't like being tied down and soon stepped out, and sliced an offbreak to cover. He wanted to go over mid-off, but the dip and the turn took it squarer. Punjab's two bits-and-pieces players, Amitoze Singh and Bipul Sharma, stood no chance and fell to ugly shots to take it from 71 for 2 to 91 for 6.
Uday Kaul, whose suicidal run-out had begun the first-innings collapse, was all at sea, and soon fell lbw playing back to a length ball from Jadeja. His brother, Siddarth, who has impressed observers with his bowling, stood no chance either, providing a mirror image of that lbw. Harbhajan Singh tried to slog but was bowled through the gate.
Sandeep Sharma and Sarabjit Ladda delayed the celebrations with a 17-run stand, but the workman offspinner Joshi produced a bit of flash by bowling a legbreak that pitched leg and hit the top of off to end the match.
The last time this region made it to the final it went around by the name of Nawanagar. Saurashtra have been consistent performers of late, but this is the first time they have broken the semi-final jinx, and they have done this without the services of their star players, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo