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Bumrah six-for propels Gujarat into final

Gujarat 390 (Panchal 149, Parthiv 62, Ajay Yadav 3-69) and 252 (Juneja 81, Gandhi 51, Nadeem 5-69) beat Jharkhand 408 (Jaggi 129, Kishan 61, RP Singh 6-90) and 111 (Bumrah 6-29, RP Singh 3-25) by 123 runs
Scorecard

A 23-year-old limited-overs India regular pitching for long-format recognition and a 31-year old veteran whom many believe is well past his prime bowled Gujarat into the Ranji Trophy final for only the second time in the tournament's 83-year history, knocking Jharkhand out despite conceding the first-innings lead. Gujarat's only other final came in 1950-51, when they lost to Holkar.

Jasprit Bumrah, with his awkward angles, steep bounce and minute deviations off the pitch, took his second five-wicket haul in successive matches; he finished with career-best figures of 6 for 29 as Jharkhand, chasing 235, were bundled out for 111. The chase was always going to be challenging on a surface that had become progressively more difficult to bat on, but not to the extent their second-innings meltdown suggested. The end came shortly before scheduled close of play on day four.

While Bumrah's efforts were hard to top, RP Singh was no less important. His upright seam and late movement, both in and out, in a quality first spell that read 5-5-0-1 triggered the slide. In an engaging passage of play in which nearly every ball was an event, Jharkhand's openers went on the defensive straight away, a ploy that backfired. Bumrah and RP Singh, who finished the match with nine wickets, were so relentless that Gujarat didn't miss Rush Kalaria, their third seamer, who didn't bat or bowl on the fourth day because of a shoulder injury.

The quality of bowling was top-notch, and was backed by the cushion of runs that Gujarat had after Manpreet Juneja, batting on 2 overnight, crafted vital stands with the lower order to make 81 and drag his team to 252. That second-innings total hadn't looked possible when Gujarat, resuming on 100 for 4, slumped to 137 for 6 when Hardik Patel and Rujul Bhatt fell in successive overs from the left-arm quick Vikash Singh.

Juneja was far from authoritative but still effective and made Jharkhand pay for two reprieves early in the day. He was first put down on 4 when Kaushal Singh grabbed at a straightforward catch at second slip off Ajay Yadav. Then he survived a run-out chance on 31 when Shahbaz Nadeem's throw from cover point missed the stumps at the striker's end.

The most notable quality of Juneja's innings was his use of the depth of the crease to counter Rahul Shukla's short-ball ploy. His willingness to trust his instincts and drive whenever the bowlers pitched full, even though there was movement early in the morning, worked in his favour as well. Six of his twelve fours came in front of square between point and mid-off, while two came off the flick and three through thick edges to third man.

Chirag Gandhi, by no means a pushover with the bat, provided Juneja a perfect foil in an 80-run seventh-wicket stand. Tactful in his strike rotation up until Juneja's dismissal, Gandhi went on the offensive to pocket useful runs and bring up a plucky half-century that took Gujarat to 252. Shahbaz Nadeem, who took three late wickets on Tuesday to trigger Gujarat's slide from 87 for 1, finished with 5 for 69 to take his tally as the season's leading wicket-taker to 56.

Jharkhand then collapsed sensationally. RP Singh, wrapped in cottonwool through most parts of the season to preserve him for crucial clashes, struck in his second over when he got one to bend back in and sneak through Pratyush Singh's flick. Bumrah, initially bowling from close to the stumps, went wider on the crease to slant one back in through Sumit Kumar's defence. Saurabh Tiwary then paid the price for lack of feet movement when RP Singh peppered his pads with a succession of inswingers. After surviving a close lbw shout, he was trapped plumb in front when he overbalanced to one that nipped back in sharply.

At 26 for 3, Jharkhand needed their crisis man Ishank Jaggi more than ever. But he lasted only three balls, chopping on to Hardik, the left-arm spinner, before Bumrah snuffed out Ishan Kishan with an away-going delivery after he had swung his way to 19, not always connecting. When Nadeem jabbed to second slip, Bumrah had his fifth. He ended with 6 for 29; the timing of his best figures couldn't have been better.