Mumbai seal 41st Ranji Trophy title with innings win
Mumbai 371 (Iyer 117, Lad 88, Unadkat 4-118) beat Saurashtra 235 (Vasavada 77, Mankad 66, Kulkarni 5-42, Thakur 3-89) and 115 (Pujara 27, Thakur 5-26) by an innings and 21 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The Ranji Trophy final was delicately poised at the start of the third day. By lunch, it was dead and buried. Mumbai's first-innings lead was 33 when No. 11 Balwinder Sandhu joined Siddhesh Lad; by the time they finished, 33 became 136, aided by poor catching and defensive tactics from Saurashtra. Whatever happened after that was a futile attempt at damage control as Mumbai knocked the stuffing out of Saurashtra and sealed their 41st Ranji Trophy title with an innings win.
Having allowed Mumbai to score 371 from 268 for 9, Saurashtra suffered a top-order brain freeze. Their batsmen fell just like they did in the first innings, getting drawn forward without feet movement, the bat coming down late to find the edge and bring the slip cordon into play. Cheteshwar Pujara resisted Mumbai for a while, making 27, but his struggle at the crease was hard to miss, before Shardul Thakur's lifter had him fending to gully. At 67 for 5, halfway into the day, the end was near. The moment Mumbai were waiting for duly arrived, shortly after tea, as the Saurashtra lower order crumbled in the face of sustained attack from Thakur, who walked away with five wickets. Saurashtra were bowled out for 115 in 48.2 overs.
Things could have perhaps been a lot different had Lad, who went on to make 88, not been reprieved on 24 at first slip by Pujara. At that stage, Mumbai's lead stood at a marginal 36. What unfolded from there on was the kind of show you expect from a side that has been there and done that. Lad chipped away at the runs with authentic cricketing shots. When Lad hit Jaydev Unadkat for four sixes to four different corners of the ground, Saurashtra were left searching for answers.
Lad, scrawny and not associated with big hits, effortlessly switched gears, after Iqbal Abdulla's dismissal in the first over of the day. Pujara, standing in as captain, in place of Jaydev Shah, who had picked up a niggle, switched to a defensive mode at the first sign of aggression.
Lad used the opportunity to pinch singles and farm the strike. As the partnership grew, Sandhu displayed confidence and gave able support to his more accomplished partner. Lad hit eight fours and five sixes; the highlight being the six over cover point off the front foot.
Unadkat, who had respectable figures of 3 for 61 off 18 overs before the dropped catch, bore the brunt of Lad's belligerence as Saurashtra's defensive tactics played into Mumbai's hands. Unadkat's next six overs went for 54. This meant that Mumbai's lead swelled to 100 and beyond. By the time Lad fell to an attempted heave that was well taken by Sheldon Jackson running in from long-on, the momentum was firmly with Mumbai. Sandhu went on to pocket his highest score, an unbeaten 34, the result being the highest tenth-wicket stand for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy history. Lad and Sandhu added a 92-ball 103 together, breaking the previous best of Ashok Mankad and Sushil Sanghvi in 1967.
Saurashtra's fragility against the moving ball was again exposed in the second dig, on a surface where there was enough to keep the pacers interested throughout the day. While there wasn't much they could have done to the good balls, their loose attempt at chasing deliveries that could be left alone, best exemplified by the shot played by Shah, hastened the end. Aditya Tare, who was in his first full season when Mumbai last won the title, completed the circle by leading his team to glory.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo