Rajasthan lift first Ranji Trophy
Rajasthan 394 (Bist 77, Kanitkar 61, Bhatt 5-103) and 341 (Menaria 101, Parida 89, Vahora 4-94) drew with Baroda 361 (Pinal 77, Chahar 4-79) and 28 for 4 (Chahar 3-15)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Rajasthan became the newest team to etch their name on the Ranji Trophy, shutting Baroda out after taking the first-innings lead with a clinical display that didn't give an inch to the hosts on the final day. It capped an improbable season for Rajasthan, who rose from being last year's bottom-placed team in the Plate League to become Ranji champions in their ninth appearance in the final. Rajasthan's strength this season has been their ability to bat big, and today it was the lower order that batted Baroda into helpless disappointment.
For Baroda to have had a sniff, they needed to dismiss Rajasthan quickly. They eventually did bowl them out, but not before the visitors' lower order had frustrated them for almost two sessions. Though Ashok Menaria - who went soon after scoring his third century in three knockout games - and Rashmi Parida fell within the first hour, the tail defended stoutly in the company of wicketkeeper Rohit Jhalani, who surprisingly came in at No. 11. Each run was loudly cheered by the Rajasthan supporters and association officials, and as the lead grew, Baroda's shoulders drooped.
The Baroda bowlers were already tired after having spent more than 200 overs on the field over four days, and though they toiled away, the game was slowly slipping from their grasp. Murtuja Vahora steamed in, Bhargav Bhatt kept going on for 45 overs, but the others were steady at best. The bowlers' disappointment gave way to angry stares as half-chances went by the close-in fielders, and the last-wicket partnership between Jhalani and Pankaj Singh comprehensively deflated them. Jhalani and Pankaj added 59 in 153 deliveries, but it was the prolonged ease with which they milked the bowling that highlighted Rajasthan's domination.
When Pankaj was finally bowled by debutant Abhijit Karambelkar, the hosts needed an impossible 375 in 29 overs. Rajasthan were not done yet though, and Pankaj and Deepak Chahar gave Baroda a torrid time, striking thrice in successive overs to leave them reeling at 21 for 3. Chahar showcased his prodigious ability to swing the ball, getting a delivery to move away after angling it on leg stump, and Swapnil Singh could only edge it to a diving Aakash Chopra at second slip.
The teams decided to call off proceedings after 14 overs in the Baroda innings, but not before Pankaj and Chahar had once again displayed their worth as a strike pair, ending the tournament with 83 victims. There was no shame in defeat for Baroda, for Rajasthan were clearly the stronger and more experienced side. They would however, look back at the two dropped chances yesterday as the moment when they let the Ranji Trophy slip out of their hands, and Rajasthan never gave them a second look at it. The eventual champions knew they were the better team, but they also proved it on the big stage.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo