Stumps Saurashtra 158 for 5 (Snell 87*, Sarwate 3-55) trail Vidarbha 312 (Karnewar 73*, Wadkar 45, Unadkat 3-54) by 154 runs
Aditya Sarwate broke the Ranji Trophy final wide open for Vidarbha, striking thrice in the second session on the second day. The last of those strikes, in the final over before tea, accounted for Cheteshwar Pujara for just 1.
Offspinner Akshay Wakhare would then strike twice after tea, as Saurashtra limped to 158 for 5 at stumps, trailing by 154 runs. It was a remarkable reversal of fortunes after Vidarbha had struggled to 200 for 7 on the opening day. But a well-thought out bowling plan and perfect execution meant the defending champions had surged ahead on Monday.
Although Snell Patel was batting on a well-crafted 87, Vidarbha were firmly in front, with not only the prospect of a sizeable lead, but also the cushion of bowling fourth on a VCA Stadium surface that has already seen a number of deliveries turn sharply.
The key passage of the day lasted a mere 20 minutes - from the time Pujara walked in just before tea, to the time he got out, in the final over before the break. Sarwate bowled ten balls to Pujara, off which one of the best players of spin bowling in world cricket didn't get a single run.
On nine of the ten balls he faced from Sarwate, Pujara had to contend with a forward short leg, a silly point, and a slip. The sustained pressure of being mindful of both inside and outside edges, combined with Sarwate's pin-point delivery, eventually consumed Saurashtra's talisman. The field placing was one Vidarbha employed for Sarwate to other batsmen too.
Pujara's dismissal had left Saurashtra 81 for 3, but without the man who was best equipped to tackle good spinners on a helpful deck, they were already well behind the game. As Wakhare's dismissals of Arpit Vasavada and Sheldon Jackson illustrated, big turn was difficult to negotiate.
Snell alone showed some command of the pitch and bowlers among Saurashtra's batsmen, with no one else having scored more than 20 so far. He was assured in his shot-making and defence, though even he had a slice of luck. On 75, he appeared to have deflected a ball from Wakhare onto pad, which was then caught by short leg, but the umpire didn't uphold Saurashtra's vociferous appeal.
But he was the only bright spot for Saurashtra, with even the bowlers having a below-par outing in the first session. Vidarbha found plucky resistance in Akshay Karnewar and Wakhare with the bat. Karnewar, more famous for being one of the few ambidextrous bowlers in the world, played confidently and showed a range of shots, giving notice of what he could do in the longer format too. He put on 78 for the eighth wicket with Wakhare.
Karnewar was the only one to hit a half-century for Vidarbha, while Wakhare contributed a valuable 34.
Saurashtra's bowlers, who had been disciplined on the first day, lost their plot a bit on the second. While Karnewar and Wakhare were batting at Nos. 8 and 9, they have both got first-class half-centuries earlier, and showed they were good enough to capitalise when the bowlers erred. The dampness in the pitch that was there on the first morning also seemed to have abated, making it a more batting-friendly surface.
The eighth-wicket stand was finally broken when Chetan Sakariya got one to seam in beautifully between Wakhare's bat and pad. Karnewar, already past 50 then, began to hit out more, and took Vidarbha past 300.