Menaria, Parida give Rajasthan control
Rajasthan 394 and 201 for 4 (Menaria 83*, Parida 78*) lead Baroda 361 (Chahar 4-79, Yadav 4-91) by 234 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Rajasthan survived several momentum shifts, with help from Baroda, and Rashmi Parida and Ashok Menaria ensured no further twists with a calculated partnership that left the visitors in control of the Ranji Trophy final. Rajasthan were 11 for 3, then 61 for 4 and could have slipped to 71 for 5, but Baroda dropped Menaria, the former India Under-19 captain, twice in successive overs, and he, along with Parida, made them pay. Menaria's assault on Bhargav Bhatt signalled the decisive change when he stepped out and lofted him for three sixes in an over. Rajasthan went from 95 to 113, and Baroda wilted thereafter.
The Baroda new-ball pair of Murtuja Vahora and Sankalp Vohra had Rajasthan in deep trouble after having defied them earlier in the morning with a 68-run partnership that had taken their team close to the visitors' 394. Vohra trapped Aakash Chopra plumb with this first delivery, and Vahora had Vineet Saxena and Hrishikesh Kanitkar caught behind with deliveries that zipped away from outside off stump.
Despite having conceded the lead, the force was now with Baroda, and they came hard at Parida and Robin Bist who managed to survive till lunch, but only 20 runs had come in 15 overs. Parida capitalised on some wayward lines in Vahora's first over after lunch, and picked up three boundaries to fine leg and third man. Bist had also settled in before he got one from Bhatt that bounced extra and took the shoulder of the bat to gully where Aditya Waghmode dived full-length to his right, juggled the ball somehow off his wrist and arm, and took it cleanly in the third attempt.
Rajasthan were barely 100 runs ahead, and another wicket at this stage would have allowed Baroda to entertain thoughts of starting their chase today. They got the opportunity seven overs later, as Menaria guided a Bhatt delivery straight to Connor Williams at slip. Williams is usually quite safe in that position, but he made a mess of a straightforward chance, going too far to his left initially, and by the time he arrested his movement, the ball had rolled away off his palm. Menaria was trying his best to offer chances, and in the next over, drove Waghmode forcefully to extra cover where Abhijit Karambelkar clanged it. Karambelkar's horror first-class debut had only got worse, as he added nine harmless overs to his nought and another dropped catch in the first innings.
Menaria did not get much of the strike in the next six overs, and that would have helped him recover from the let-offs. Meanwhile, Parida, who has been the most assured of the batsmen on either side, launched into Waghmode, and brought up his half-century with a six over long-on. Things had just started to slip from Baroda's grasp. The field settings were still aggressive, but Menaria tore into Bhatt - Baroda's best bowler this season - and scattered away the close-in men.
Baroda fell apart after tea as Pinal Shah ran out of ideas, giving even Ambati Rayudu a couple of overs. He could not afford to attack much, and in the mood Menaria was in, even the men on the boundary were helpless. Menaria had shown in the first innings how clean a striker he is, and now he pinged the gaps with as much ease. He drove elegantly through extra cover, and flicked powerfully through midwicket for boundaries. Parida, the veteran, stepped back and let Menaria take charge. Menaria had joined Parida when he was on 30, and overtook the senior batsman by stumps, putting his side on course for their first Ranji title.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo