Baroda v Services, Ranji Trophy, Vadodara, 3rd day December 16, 2013

Munaf sends Services crashing to 31

Alagappan Muthu

Baroda 369 (Mistry 118) beat Services 191 (Swain 62, Yashpal 58, Munaf 4-38) and 31 (Munaf 6-13, Gagandeep 4-11) by an innings and 147 runs

Services crumbled to the lowest score of the season - 31 all out - as Munaf Patel grabbed a career-best 6 for 13 and spearheaded Baroda to an innings victory in Vadodara.

Services began at 2 for 1, and still 176 behind. Only two runs were added in the first five overs of the morning when seamer Gagandeep Singh struck. With the opening made, Munaf burst through to leave Services dangling at 5 for 5 in the 11th over. Only two batsmen - none of them from the top order - scored more than 2 and Vishnu Tiwari was the only one to get into double figures with 14, as Services folded in the 20th over and slumped to their second innings-defeat of the season.

"He [Munaf] was bowling sharp and was extracting some good bounce," the Baroda coach Sanath Kumar told ESPNcricinfo. "The pitch suited our bowlers who tend to hit the deck. Going into the day, we were looking to restrict them to around 150, but we never expected something like this to happen."

Kumar said the Services collapse wasn't due to any gremlins in the track. "It was a superb pitch," Kumar said. "There was a lot of bounce, which is normal at the Reliance ground. We expected a little turn for the spinners but there wasn't much, but they were getting good bounce as well. They [Services] did play a couple of poor shots, but we bowled really well."

Notorious for his susceptibility to injury, Munaf returned to first-class cricket after a two-year gap this year and was used rather sparingly. He has played three of Baroda's six games so far, an improvement over a record of 11 Ranji Trophy games in the last six years.

"We save him for the right games," Kumar said. "He is coming out of injury so we have to use him the right way so that when he is picked, he can give it his all. He wasn't doing anything different [today]. He just bowled normally and was excellent for us and was ably supported by Gagandeep Singh"

Deepak Bhaskar, the Services manager, hoped the manner of their defeat was a one-off. "We batted poorly and Munaf did very well by keeping it in the right areas. There were no devils in the pitch. It was a positive wicket," he said. "It is just one of those things that happen in cricket. The batsmen just failed to click."

Baroda's victory was all the more sweet as Irfan Pathan made his first appearance for the season, but he was still "not fit enough to bowl", said Kumar. "He's bowling 20-30 balls a day but will need a couple of weeks [to be fully fit]."

Dhiren Mistry was another positive for the home side as the 22-year old opener converted his third successive fifty-plus score into his maiden first-class century. His hundred in the first innings served as the backbone of Baroda's 369. "It was a very mature innings, especially with the other batsmen being a bit out of touch. He used to go for too many shots and was a little flashy last season, but he's become more compact."

The seven points from the innings win doubled Baroda's tally, reviving a sagging campaign ahead of two away matches to round out the league phase.