Zaheer Khan delivered when it mattered most, picking up five wickets for just 16 runs on the final day to bowl Railways out for 201. Baroda won by 21 runs and took the Ranji Trophy for the fifth time since its inception. Railways wilted under pressure to lose the match after being in the driver's seat for the best part of the contest, in the final played at Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Ground, Baroda, on Monday.
Baroda had to dismiss the remaining six Railways wickets to take the Ranji Trophy. Railways had their eyes set on knocking off the required 132 runs to win. Without the services of Rakesh Patel, who is injured, Baroda had to rely on Zaheer Khan and he did not disappoint. Resuming on their overnight score of 91/4, Yere Goud (20) was given out, caught behind off the bowling of Zaheer Khan in the third over of the day. Goud's bat was nowhere near the ball as the TV replays suggested.
Railways were soon reduced to 107/6, when S Khanolkar (3) was trapped in front of the wicket by Khan. SV Wankhede and Santosh Sahu added 83 runs for the seventh wicket, as they went about sweeping the spinners Valmik Buch and Bhoite to the leg side. Runs kept flowing as the two batsmen kept playing across the line.
Railways were 33 runs away from victory with four wickets in hand. A desperate Jacob Martin had to call upon Zaheer Khan to deliver the impossible. In the space of 26 balls Railways lost the remaining wickets; Sahu (42) was brilliantly caught by Martin off the bowling of Khan.
Murali Kartik who played a resilient knock in the first innings came out to bat. He was adjudged caught behind off Bhoite after making just two runs. A visibly dejected Kartik had a few words of dissent and took a wild swing with his bat at the stumps. The umpire had to call him back and reprimand him. Kartik who has been in trouble for his erratic behaviour will certainly be reported to the BCCI.
Kulamani Parida (0) was caught by Buch at second slip off a Zaheer Khan bouncer. Parida was injured in the first innings when he was hit by a beamer from Khan and that must have been playing in his mind as he took evasive action. The ball seemed to have brushed his gloves on its way to the fielder. It was a close call and as luck would have it, Baroda got the benefit of the doubt.
The end came without a trace of doubt, Wankhede managing to get an inside edge onto his off stump for Khan's fifth wicket of the morning. There was so much jubilation all around as the home crowd ran onto the ground to celebrate a great victory. Baroda has had a good season and there is nothing like winning India's premier domestic championship, the Ranji Trophy.