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Ranji Trophy round seven: TN in knockouts after six seasons, Thakur bags ten for Mumbai

Highlights from the final round of Ranji Trophy season

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Shivam Dube celebrates his hundred for Mumbai  •  PTI

Shivam Dube celebrates his hundred for Mumbai  •  PTI

From 32 teams, eight of them are left standing as the final round of the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 helped lock in the knockouts line-up. Here are the highlights.

TN's first knockout appearance in six seasons

They began the season with a crushing away loss to Gujarat and then saw their chances of securing full points against Tripura go up in smoke thanks to the weather. But from having a solitary point after two rounds, Tamil Nadu have been an unstoppable force, securing four wins in their remaining five games to top Group B.
Their latest win, against Punjab, may have yet not been enough to seal the top spot had Karnataka won their final group fixture against Chandigarh; Karnataka took the first-innings honours to finish second in the pool. For Tamil Nadu, this will be their first knockout appearance since the Ranji Trophy 2016-17, where they lost to Mumbai in the semi-final.
Their fourth win was set up by B Indrajith and Vijay Shankar who struck centuries in a massive first-innings score of 435, before the left-arm spinning duo of S Ajith Ram and Sai Kishore wheeled away to picked up 15 wickets between them. Set a mere 71, Tamil Nadu got there in just seven overs to secure a nine-wicket win.
Punjab's fight in the second innings was led by Nehal Wadhera, who made a quickfire 107-ball 109 in an otherwise forgettable batting display. Overall, their season of promise - they won the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s - ended with a solitary win that had them finish sixth in the group.

Veterans Tiwary, Fazal walk into retirement

He un-retired after announcing his decision to walk away from all forms of cricket at the end of Ranji Trophy 2022-23 to be able to realise a long-standing dream of winning the coveted title. There seemed some merit in his decision, too; Bengal had come within sniffing distance twice in the last three years (2019-20 and 2022-23), only to be pipped by Saurashtra. But there was no fairy-tale ending for one of Indian domestic cricket's great war horses, Manoj Tiwary, as Bengal endured a disappointing end to a campaign that never took off; finishing third, behind eventual qualifiers Mumbai and Andhra in Group B.
The gulf between them and Andhra was seven points, which Bengal would have perhaps felt they lost after two of their seven games were severely weather-affected. They, however, signed off on a winning note after handing Bihar defeat by an innings and 204 runs, with fast bowler Mukesh Kumar picking up six wickets.
Tiwary, who led Bengal all season, made 30 in his final innings, thereby ending a first-class career in which he made 10,195 runs across 148 matches with 30 hundreds and an impressive average of 47.86. He was fittingly felicitated by the Cricket Association of Bengal in a ceremony on Sunday evening at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Unlike Tiwary, Faiz Fazal bows out with two Ranji Trophy crowns he led Vidarbha to back-to-back in 2017-18 and 2018-19. His final innings in first-class cricket on Sunday ended in a first-ball duck, but Vidarbha managed to secure a 115-run win over Haryana in a winner-takes-all contest in Nagpur. Fazal finishes with 9184 runs in 138 first-class matches with 24 hundred and an average of 41.
The win helped Vidarbha top Group A, with Saurashtra, the defending champions, finishing a close second following their convincing two-day win over Manipur in Rajkot, with Cheteshwar Pujara hitting his third hundred of the season and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, the left-arm spinner, picking up his second straight match haul of ten wickets.

Thakur back in business as Mumbai march on

Shardul Thakur's match haul of 10 for 52 helped Mumbai record their fifth win of the season, as Assam were handed a thrashing inside two days. Assam lasted all of 65.1 overs in both innings combined. This was only Thakur's second first-class outing since playing the Centurion Test in December. Thakur aside, Shivam Dube continued to have a sensational 2024. He hit a counter-attacking unbeaten 121 that lifted Mumbai from a previous 110 for 5 in the first innings. This was Dube's second first-class hundred of the season.

Delhi end on a high

Three senior players walked away expressing annoyance and hurt at DDCA's dysfunctional system. The selection panel chief was forced to resign two games in, following a poor start. Yash Dhull, their young captain, was sacked one game in and the threat of relegation loomed halfway into the season. Yet, despite all the off-field rumblings, Delhi managed to hold their own in the back end of the season to finish with three wins, all coming in their last four games, to end third in the pool.
Their win in the final round, against Odisha, was led by Dhull's first-innings 112, his fifth first-class century, that helped open up a slender 11-run lead before Odisha collapsed in the second innings for 133. Eventually, a target of 123 proved too little to defend as Delhi won by seven wickets with Ayush Badoni and Dhull seeing them home.

Railways pull off record heist

Railways pulled off the highest successful chase in Ranji history to end their campaign on a high. The win was all the more special because they conceded a first-innings lead to Tripura that seemed decisive at the time.
Railways were bundled out for 105 in response to Tripura's 149, and then found themselves chasing a mammoth 378 for victory. At 31 for 3, Railways were in deep trouble before Mohammad Saif and Pratham Singh revived their chase with a fourth-innings stand of 175.
Saif fell for 106, but Pratham batted on to remain unbeaten on 169. He was ably supported by Upendra Yadav, the captain, who played his part in the match-winning partnership by making 27 not out.
In pulling off a sensational win, Railways surpassed Saurashtra's record for the previous highest chase (372 against Uttar Pradesh in 2018-19). The win wasn't enough to secure a knockouts berth for Railways as all of Karnataka, TN and Gujarat finished with more points than them in a tight table that was decided on the final day of matches.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo