Railways' fairytale reaches fruition
Railways 355 (Ali 80, Bangar 79) and 471 (Goud 138*, Yadav 97) drew with Punjab 309 (Dharmani 115) and 137 for 4 - Railways won the Ranji Trophy because they took the first-innings lead.
How they were out
A game that twisted and turned on the first four days meandered to an anti-climactic, inevitable, end as Railways strolled to their second Ranji Trophy triumph by virtue of gaining the first-innings lead. After grinding their way to a massive lead of 517, Railways enjoyed a cheerful afternoon picnic at Mohali as Punjab stuttered to 137 for 4 before the game was finally called off.
Within the first two hours of the day, Yere Goud had continued his resolute methods and reached a memorable hundred, his 12th in first-class cricket, the tail wagged with some unexpected restraint, and made sure that the title was completely secure. The lack of intent to go for an outright victory was a shade disappointing, but as every Railways player will tell you, too much is at stake and they couldn't afford even the slightest of risks.
The rest of the day was spent waiting for the celebrations to begin. After a solid start, Punjab lost three wickets in quick succession, two to Sanjay Bangar, and thoughts of a collapse crept in. But Ravneet Ricky's fluent 64 prevented any such crumbling as part-timers tried their luck with the ball.
The end came at 3.37pm after seven mandatory overs. Jai Prakash Yadav, the architect of the triumph, was the first to grab a stump as the Railways players converged for a raucous celebration. Every single member of the side contributed to the triumph with Yadav, Goud and Sanjay Bangar leading the way. Through the season, they unearthed Madan Yadav, a left-arm spinner with promise, while Amit Pagnis and Harvinder Singh changed from occasional contributors to genuine matchwinners.
The young Punjab side - this was the first season for many players - walked off completely flat but they will look back at the several positives from the season. Intikhab Alam instilled a cladding of steel in them and their triumph at the Wankhede, something sides very rarely achieve, was a massive achievement in itself. There were initial signs that Ravneet Ricky and Reetinder Singh Sodhi might finally translate potential into performance, Dharmani soldiered on, while Gaurav Gupta, a pugnacious middle-order batsman, and VRV Singh, the fast bowler, had impressive starts to their careers. They rode on team effort rather than individuals and reached the finals for the first time in 10 years. They are probably at the same stage that Railways were in around 2001 and if they build on their gains, they could be a dominant force in the years to come.
Strains of bhangra filled the air as the Railways players danced off the ground into the dressing-room. Apart from the Ranji Trophy, there was much more to look forward to - promotions, increments, a better gymnasium, improved infrastructure, renovation of their dormitory at Delhi and the like. The champagne was uncorked soon after and the fairy-tale turnaround from relegation contenders to national champions was just beginning to sink in.
Harvinder c Gupta b Rajesh 26 (396 for 9) Beaten by one that went away and nicked to Gaurav Gupta at first slip.
Madan c Dharmani b Vineet 38 (471 all out) Flashed at a wide one and nicked to the wicketkeeper.
Sodhi c Wankhede b Bangar 15 (32 for 1) Edged one while attempting to drive through the covers.
Kakkar c Wankhede b Bangar 1 (34 for 2) Almost identical to Sodhi's dismissal.
Muneesh c Pagnis b Madan 7 (52 for 3) Pushed forward to one that turned away and was caught at silly mid-on.
Ricky b Parida 64 (110 for 4) Tried to pull a short one but was bowled after the ball kept low.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.