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The Report by Kanishkaa Balachandran in Rajkot
December 25, 2013
Baroda 400 (Wakaskar 128, Waghmode 94, Yusuf 68*) and 265 for 9 dec (Wakaskar 69, Unadkat 4-61) beat Saurashtra 311 (Jackson 74, Utkarsh 5-70) and 115 (Yusuf 6-40) by 239 runs
It all went down to the last few minutes as Baroda, led by Yusuf Pathan's six-wicket haul, clinched the Gujarat derby in the eighth round, bowling out Saurashtra for 115 as the shadows lengthened in Rajkot.
Pursuing an improbable 355 on a wearing pitch was never Saurashtra's plan and the best they could do was bat for a draw. The final-wicket pair of Jaydev Unadkat and Kamlesh Makvana blocked ball after ball from the spinners as the clock ticked on, and a jailbreak from the home side seemed likely. However, with around ten minutes left, Baroda were handed a Christmas gift when Unadkat decided to give the left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt the charge. The No.11 was beaten in flight and stumped, leading to frenzied celebrations in the Baroda camp.
Baroda took six points and ended the round on 20 points, moving to third on the points table. Saurashtra, having conceded an innings lead, could have taken one point had they saved the game. Instead they took back none. Last year's runners-up are sixth and find themselves struggling to qualify for the knockouts.
Baroda picked up all ten wickets inside two sessions. Utkarsh Patel's aggressive 53 swelled the lead past 350 before the declaration came. Saurashtra were cautious before lunch and didn't indicate, at any stage, that they were going for the target. Without Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, their line-up only looked to play out time.
The slide began after lunch when Yusuf took two quick wickets, bowling Bhushan Chauhan and Sagar Jogiyani. The pressure on the hosts increased with the ball gripping and turning, and with as many as five close catchers clustered around the bat. Yusuf went round the wicket and created an awkward angle to Sheldon Jackson, who edged to slip to leave Saurashtra 70 for 3.
That became 73 for 5 as Bhatt joined in, trapping the opener Chirag Pathak lbw before Yusuf did the same to Aarpit Vasavada, who was lbw coming forward. Vasavada's exit left Jaydev Shah as the only specialist batsman around and the captain was subdued at the crease, given the problematic situation his team was in.
Saurashtra went to tea needing to protect their last four wickets but Shah couldn't resist long enough, edging his Yusuf to the keeper. The ball bounced more than Shah would have liked as he went forward and Yusuf had his second five-for of the tournament.
At 89 for 8, a quick finish loomed but the last two pairs resisted long enough to get Yusuf thinking. He even took himself off for an over, tossing the ball to the seamer Firdaush Bhaja. Bringing Bhatt back clicked for Baroda as the ball kept low, trapping Dharmendrasinh Jadeja plumb in front.
An anxious Baroda completed their mandatory overs for the day and had around 15 minutes more to get the final wicket. The plan of defending ball after ball was working for Saurashtra, but Unadkat's impetuousness blew it for the hosts. Baroda couldn't believe their luck and their second consecutive win shored up their chances of qualifying. They will still need to beat Rajasthan to make sure of a quarterfinal berth but even a draw could see them through.
If Saurashtra win their final game against Services with a bonus point, they will end on 23, currently the total that second-placed UP sit on, but they will need other results to go their way if they have to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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