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The Report by Amol Karhadkar at the Wankhede Stadium
January 11, 2014
Maharashtra 280 (Bawne 84, Thakur 6-86) and 252 for 2 (Jadhav 120*, Zol 91*) beat Mumbai 402 (Suryakumar 120, Fallah 4-103) and 129 (Sanklecha 4-57, Fallah 3-45, Mundhe 3-26)
Eleven minutes before tea, Kedar Jadhav pulled Shardul Thakur for a boundary through square leg, picked up a stump and raised his arms in air. Vijay Zol ran towards him and hugged him. Then, the Mumbai slip cordon, stunned by the onslaught of the preceding 108 minutes, took turns to congratulate the Maharashtra duo.
On a Wankhede Stadium track where pace bowlers had dominated the proceedings of the first three days, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Zol's unbeaten third wicket partnership of 215 runs helped Maharashtra run down a stiff target of 252 runs with eight wickets to spare. The win meant Maharashtra entered the Ranji Trophy semi-finals for the first time in 17 years.
The dominance of Jadhav, remained unbeaten on 120 after scoring his fifth century of the season, and Zol, the India Under-19 captain, showed his prowess at the first-class level with an unbeaten 91. The match was full of firsts for Maharashtra. Their third victory against Mumbai in 62 outings was their first in a knockout game against the domestic giants. Jadhav became the first batsman this season to go past the 1000-run mark, and the duo's 215-run association was Maharashtra's highest ever partnership for any wicket against Mumbai. The previous best was Kamal Bhandarkar and Ranga Sohoni's opening stand of 204 back in 1940-41, Maharashtra's last victorious Ranji campaign.
The demolition was divided in two parts during Saturday's two sessions. Starting the day at 28 for 1, 224 runs adrift the target, Maharashtra's first target was to see off the new ball without losing too many wickets. However, Zaheer Khan bowled at full steam and took just 19 minutes to strike. Harshad Khadiwale was caught in no man's land off the 25th ball of the morning off a Zaheer short ball that he could only lob it to Kastubh Pawar in the slip cordon.
Then came the moment that eventually proved to be decisive. Zaheer brought on Abhishek Nayar as the first change and in his opening over, he managed to entice Zol into a miscued drive. To everyone's disbelief, Pawar dropped a regulation catch at short point.
From then on, till the first drinks break, Zol joined Jadhav in not going after anything that was even slightly outside off stump. The duo left the ball, frustrating the Mumbai bowlers, and once the ball had lost its shine, slowly started playing their shots. In the 32.2 overs in the first session, Maharashtra had got to 111 for 2, having added 83 runs to their overnight total.
With the target 141 runs away, Mumbai had to contain the duo up front after the break, even while trying to get the breakthrough. However, Jadhav and Zol came out and switched gears without any trouble. Jadhav, whose 35 runs till lunch had come off 77 balls, took just nine more balls to cross fifty. Then, he raced from fifty to hundred in 38 balls. In the last over before the session's drinks break, he charged down the pitch and hit three massive sixes off left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar, sealing Mumbai's fate.
Zol, who had flicked Zaheer for three boundaries in the opening session, then expressed himself. His twin drives down the ground, on either side of the wicket, off Zaheer, was the highlight of his knock. The winning shot was followed by a wave of the bat from Jadhav, directed towards his bowling unit, which had set up the remarkable turnaround by winding up Mumbai's second innings for 129 on the third afternoon.
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