Rohit's triple and Baroda's near-miss
It's good to know Rohit Sharma has it in him to play a long innings. Never mind it came against Gujarat on a flat track, a first-class triple-century is a proud achievement. For a batsman considered to be the future of the Indian middle order, it had been a concern that the attractive 30s were not being converted into bigger scores. Consider this: the 322 balls he faced for his 309 not out was 28 more than what he faced in the whole of the 2007-08 season. Rohit is aware of the criticism against him. "This knock means a lot to me. Without doubt, this is my best innings," he told the Indian Express. "Questions were being asked if I was good for the longer versions. I have been through tough times, but this triple-hundred will change things."
Sow in 2008, reap in 2009
Karnataka played six matches in the league stage this year. They won four of them outright (two of them with a bonus point), and took the first-innings lead in the remaining two. No team in their group could get the better of them, not even in the first innings. Mumbai, on the other hand, won just one of the seven matches they played, scraped through into the top three, thanks to the four instances in which they managed the first-innings lead. But Mumbai, by the virtue of being the defending champions, get to play the Plate League qualifiers in the quarter-finals. We understand it's an old Ranji Trophy rule, but it can certainly do with a revision: it is quite clear as to who out of Karnataka and Mumbai deserve to face the easier opponents this season.
Pathans miss a trick
While there was no last-day fight for any of the quarter-final slots, Baroda gave Delhi a late scare for the final spot. Baroda started the final round with 10 points, and Delhi 15. As Delhi went on to concede a first-innings lead against Bengal and earn themselves just one point, Baroda knew if they could beat Maharashtra with a bonus point they could tie with Delhi on points, and scrape through on a better run quotient. It all seemed to be working out for Baroda when Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel took seven wickets between them to set themselves a target of 101. The catch was, they had to win by 10 wickets in order to get the bonus point, and they also had to play out two overs on the third evening.
Irfan promoted his brother, Yusuf, to open the innings. The Indian Express reports: "On the very first ball, however, he stepped down the track and skied the ball to the wicketkeeper Rohit Motwani." Irfan told the paper: "We had made a decision to send him in early to accelerate the innings and to ensure we had a reliable batsman who would survive the last two overs. Unfortunately things didn't turn out that way."
Fallah gets a hat-trick
Yusuf's rush of blood completed a staggered hat-trick for the Maharashtra left-arm medium-pacer Samad Fallah, to go with his eight-for in the first innings. This was the second hat-trick this season, following Karnataka's Abhimanyu Mithun's effort on debut. Maharashtra, though, didn't have much else to cheer for as they were relegated to the Plate League.
No quarters given
Since the two Plate qualifiers have the opportunity to face the Super League teams, we have a few rare match-ups. Mumbai and Haryana have played each other only once before, and Uttar Pradesh and Assam only thrice. And despite both of them playing in the Super League, Karnataka and Punjab have somehow avoided each other ever since the Super and Plate divisions were introduced. The last time they played each other was the 1998-99 semi-final, which Karnataka won by seven wickets.
Look who's playing the quarters
Former Mumbai players, Sairaj Bahutule and Amol Muzumdar, who represented Assam this season. Bahutule's 25 wickets at 18.48, and eight wickets in the Plate semi-final helped Assam through. Assam's other key performer was the former Maharashtra batsman Dheeraj Jadhav, who carried his bat through for 165 in the semi-final. While it's unlikely that Bahutule and Muzumdar will come face to face with Mumbai this season, there is every chance they might play a league match against their old team in 2010-11.
Bengal's new opener
His 152 against Delhi may have come a bit late in the season for Bengal, but Sourav Ganguly is all set to open the innings for them in the East Zone one-dayers in Cuttack in February, reports the Telegraph. The Kolkata-based paper suggested Ganguly will use this to get into groove for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2010 IPL: their regular opener, Brendon McCullum, will be away for a major part of the tournament. Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Bengal's captain, approves. "I have absolutely no problem with Sourav opening. He is free to choose his batting position."
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo