Baroda are the current Ranji Trophy champions after they beat Railways in a cliffhanger at Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Ground, Baroda. Last year it was Mumbai who took the glory, defeating Hyderabad by 297 runs at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, on the 23rd April.
Mumbai and Hyderabad were at full strength, given the fact that all the leading batsmen had got amongst the runs in the semi-finals. Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were in brilliant form and it seemed that the final match would be a high scoring one.
Mohd. Azharuddin won the toss for Hyderabad and asked Mumbai to bat first. It is not a practice in Indian domestic cricket to put the opposition in, given the nature of the wickets and the fact that most matches are decided on the virtue of the first innings lead.
Mumbai did not have an ideal start, losing their captain Sameer Dighe (3). Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli got together at 72/3 and added 104 runs for the fourth wicket. Tendulkar made 53 runs striking seven boundaries and a six. Kambli (108) went on to reach his century with the help of 15 fours. And, in the meanwhile he added 82 runs for the sixth wicket with Paras Mhambhrey.
Ajit Agarkar (30) gave good support to Mhambrey and added 60 runs for the seventh wicket. Mhambrey (75) played a crucial innings for Mumbai, punctuating his knock with seven boundaries. Mumbai were bowled out for 376, with Venkatapathy Raju claiming 4/110.
Hyderabad were bowled out for 195 in 64.4 overs, Ajit Agarkar (3/26) and Rajesh Pawar (3/44) doing most of the damage. VVS Laxman (46) riding on a triple hundred he made in the semi-finals was run out in a tragic mix-up with Azharuddin (76). The two batsmen added 89 valuable runs for the third wicket. P Satwalkar (30) gave good support to Azharuddin, but the rest of the batting just caved in.
Mumbai had a cracking start, scoring 103 runs for the first wicket. Wasim Jaffer (55), Dighe (46) and Jatin Paranjpe (42) all got amongst runs. The pitch was taking a lot of turn as the two Mumbai champion batsmen got together. Tendulkar and Kambli went on a run riot. Sixes and fours flowed in a hurry amongst a deluge of runs. Kambli (56) hit five boundaries and three sixes as he went on to add 105 runs in just 18.1 overs with Tendulkar.
Tendulkar was not going to miss out on a big score in the second innings. He had the measure of the Hyderabad attack and went on doing what he does best, annihilating the bowling. He scored 128 runs off 124 balls with the help of 13 strokes past the ropes and three huge ones over the fence. Mhambrey (30) again made a good contribution with the bat. Mumbai scored 409 all out in the second innings, Venkatapathy Raju (5/123) and Kanwaljit Singh (4/136) toiled hard with the ball for Hyderabad.
Set an impossible target of 591 runs for an outright win in the final innings, Hyderabad had a mountain to climb. They lost an early wicket of Nandakishore (9) when the score was just ten. VVS Laxman and Daniel Manohar added 188 runs for the second wicket, as Mumbai struggled to make a breakthrough. Laxman (111) was looking good for yet another massive score, but fell to the guiles of the left-arm spinner Pawar. His innings was decorated with two sixes and 13 boundaries off 192 balls. Four overs later, Pawar bowled Manohar (71). He had struck 11 boundaries in his patient knock.
The young Mumbai spinner Pawar, spun a web with his left-arm orthodox spin to pick up 7/103 to take his match tally to ten wickets. Agarkar bowled well to finish with three wickets giving away 46 runs. Hyderabad were bowled out for 293 runs in 98.2 overs. Mumbai celebrated their 34th Ranji Trophy victory, adding one more triumph to their glorious history.