Unadkat strikes but Baroda hold advantage
Baroda 400 and 207 for 6 (Wakaskar 69, Unadkat 4-30) lead Saurashtra 311 (Jackson 74, Utkarsh 5-70) by 296 runs
An inspired spell post-tea by Jaydev Unadkat lifted Saurashtra's sagging spirits, but Baroda continued to hold the edge on the penultimate day in Rajkot, armed with a lead of close to 300 on a deteriorating pitch. With a day left and three innings yet to be completed, a draw looked the most likely outcome with Baroda poised to go home with more points.
Spinners were expected to bag most of the wickets on a pitch tailor-made for them, but Unadkat's spell of eight overs in which he picked four wickets proved that he could battle the conditions. Saurashtra had lost half the battle when they conceded a first-innings lead of 89 and their best hope of taking more than just a point was to push for an outright win. It required a collapse from Baroda and for a while, the visitors looked like losing their foothold when they slid to 130 for 5. However, Pinal Shah and Utkarsh Patel showed good resistance to stretch the lead to a point where it would place unrealistic expectations on any team batting last on this surface.
Saurabh Wakaskar and Aditya Waghmode built Baroda's lead with a stand of 74 for the third wicket. Wakaskar, who scored a century in the first innings, was aggressive against the spinners, driving down the ground and smashing a straight six that struck the sightscreen. He was let off on 60 when he miscued an attempted six to long-on, only for Unadkat to spill the catch over his head. Saurashtra couldn't let go of those chances, given their situation, but Unadkat made amends with the skill he's known better for.
Fortunes oscillated when he began his spell after tea and removed Waghmode leg-before. He was on a hat-trick when he sent Irfan Pathan's off stump spinning back a few yards. It was a blow for Irfan, playing purely as a batsman and missing a length ball. Wakaskar added only nine more runs after being dropped, trapped in front by Unadkat. The left-arm seamer, not picked for India's tour of South Africa, ran in with vigour, extracting good pace from an unhelpful wicket. He bent his back to try and bounce the batsmen out and it was a testing period for Baroda, who couldn't take their position for granted.
Unadkat was lucky to get a fourth wicket, though, when Yusuf Pathan, on 17, was adjudged caught behind trying to cut. It bounced more than he expected and the umpire was convinced he had nicked it. A stunned Yusuf stood his ground and trudged off, staring at the Saurashtra players huddled together. It was untimely for Yusuf, just when he was looking dangerous. One of his two sixes landed several rows behind long-on and the ball couldn't be traced. The lead looked like swelling quickly so long as he was around. However, Shah and Utkarsh batted positively, buoyed by uninhibited cheers from the Baroda dressing room and ensured no further losses.
Utkarsh, the offspinner, was effective with the ball as well in the morning. Baroda had the hosts under pressure coming into the third morning, having removed six wickets on day two. But Saurashtra appeared comfortable against pace. The introduction of spin, though, was the turning point for Baroda as Utkarsh took two in two. Arpit Vasavada, the last recognised batsman, failed to make them pay for being dropped at slip as he was stumped in the following over. Utkarsh had Vishal Joshi caught behind the following ball to finish with 5 for 70. Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and Unadkat frustrated Baroda with a last-wicket stand of 53 but the visitors still gained a healthy lead when Yusuf dismissed Jadeja leg-before for 44.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo