Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Madhya Pradesh 536 (Dubey 133, Patidar 122, Shubham 116, Mulani 5-173) and 108 for 4 (Mantri 37, Patidar 30*) beat Mumbai 374 (Sarfaraz 134, Jaiswal 78, Yadav 4-106) and 269 (Parkar 51, Sarfaraz 45, Kartikeya 4-98) by six wickets
Madhya Pradesh are the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 champions, 69 years after they last won the coveted trophy in their former avatar, as Holkar, and 23 years since they last had a shot at Indian domestic cricket's biggest prize. At the same venue of their 1998-99 heartbreak, MP redeemed themselves in the best way possible, vanquishing 41-time champions Mumbai to lift the trophy on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.
Victory was achieved shortly before tea on the fifth day when Rajat Patidar pushed Sarfaraz Khan for a single wide of point as MP had converted potentially tricky 108 chase into a cruise. Patidar, whose 122 helped set up MP's 162-run lead in the first innings, was 34 not out, along with Aditya Shrivastava, the captain.
Mumbai's bowlers needed to go for broke and they struck gold early when Dhawal Kulkarni breached Yash Dubey's defense in the third over to leave MP 4 for 1. The next half hour provided an engaging passage with runs coming in a trickle. But MP hardly looked under pressure, calmly battling through the new-ball burst, and putting away the occasional boundary balls with the fields in to keep tucking away at the runs.
Once set, the batters tried to go for the big hits. This led to the dismissals of Himanshu Mantri and Parth Sahani, but there were no more twists in store. Patidar tantalized the crowd with some exquisite cover drives to the all-familiar RCB chants.
Mumbai's aspirations of setting a bigger total took a beating right from the outset as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals, even as MP restored to a defensive line of attack all morning. Their placers employed a wide line - almost sixth stump outside off - with six fielders to protect the off-side boundary. Against spin, especially Kumar Kartikeya's left-arm variety, they employed a leg-stump line with six fielders stationed on the leg side.
Sarfaraz employed the sweep to good effect, and repeatedly kept peppering different parts of the leg-side boundary by hitting against the turn. He made 45 before being the seventh wicket to fall when he holed out to deep backward square leg off left-arm spinner Sahani. He ended the season with 982 runs, 324 more than second-placed Patidar.
After sweeping his way to some handy runs, Sarfaraz was out to the very shot that brought him runs - sweeping from way outside off to find the boundary rider. Mumbai's last three hardly troubled the bowlers and were rolled over quickly for 269, leaving MP more than two sessions to gnaw at the target.
When they came out, MP banished early jitters to set the tone for some serious celebrations in the MP camp. After five days of sitting motionless in the dressing room, belting out instructions through the 12th man, Chandrakant Pandit, the man who sobbed pitch side after the 1998-99 heartbreak, had his moment of redemption shortly before tea. As for the rest of the young group led by Shrivastava, it was time for some celebrations as the first step towards dominating the red-ball scene had been taken quite emphatically.
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