Ranji Final: Nair, Wadkar innings help Vidarbha fightback against gritty Mumbai spinners

March 13, 2024
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Mumbai, with their eyes set on a record 42nd title, found themselves in the driver's seat on day four of the Ranji Trophy final,

Mumbai, March 13 (IANS) Mumbai, with their eyes set on a record 42nd title, found themselves in the driver’s seat on day four of the Ranji Trophy final, but Vidarbha’s resilient batting line-up, led by Karun Nair and captain Akshay Wadkar, stood as formidable obstacles in their path to victory.

However, Musheer Khan’s late blow to dismiss Nair on 74 helped Mumbai to take charge of the game yet again as visitors ended the day on 248 for 5, still 290 runs away from the 538 target.

As the slow-moving day progressed, Mumbai’s spinners toiled hard on a surface offering ample turn. Despite conceding a first-innings lead, Vidarbha’s batters were determined not to go down without a fight. Their cautious approach meant that Mumbai had to earn every wicket, with spinners dominating the proceedings.

Shams Mulani and Tanush Kotian struck crucial blows for Mumbai, as they sent back Vidarbha’s top order. After the first drinks break of the morning, in the 19th over, Shams Mulani’s left-arm orthodox spin removed Atharva Taide (32) lbw. After two balls, they went from 62 for 0 to 64 for 2, thanks to offspinner Tanush Kotian forcing Dhruv Shorey (28) to drive off course and peg his off stump back.

Following lunch, Mumbai skipper Ajinkya Rahane went to Musheer Khan. With his high-arm delivery, the 19-year-old produced plenty of bounce and turn. Khan got rid of Aman Mokhade for 32 with a delivery skidding back on the stump deemed to lbw. Yash Rathod, who came to bat next tried to dead-bat, but Kotian’s darting in to catch the left-hand batter within his crease brought an end to his inning on the score of 7 after Kotian persuaded his captain for a successful review.

But Nair and Wadkar stood firm, showcasing grit and determination in the face of mounting pressure. With 133 for 4 on the board with a huge target to chase the onus was on the two experienced players of the side.

Nair, who came out to bat in the 20th over built his inning riding on patience, resolute defense, and occasional aggression, as he anchored Vidarbha’s resistance. Despite surviving a few close calls, Nair held his ground, frustrating the Mumbai bowlers with his solid technique. His eventual dismissal, though, provided a glimmer of hope for Mumbai.

Seven overs into the second new ball, Musheer eventually got him out when he got one to zip over and kiss Nair’s outside edge on its way to the wicketkeeper. Nair played 240 balls and only hit three fours.

Yet, Wadkar emerged as the beacon of hope for Vidarbha. With controlled aggression and impeccable shot selection, he led his team’s fightback, notching up a crucial 18th half-century slapping Tushar Deshpande’s short outside off delivery through deep backward point for a six. His partnership with Harsh Dubey, who displayed flashes of aggression, ensured that Vidarbha ended the day with their hopes alive, albeit still trailing by a significant margin.

Wadedkar ended on 91 balls 56 at the stumps on day four while Dubey was on 11 balls 10. Vidarbha still has a daunting task on day 5, they need 290 runs with five wickets in hand to win the final for the third time.

Brief scores:

Mumbai 224 & 418 all out in 130.2 overs (Musheer Khan 136, Ajinkya Rahane 73, Shreyas Iyer 95, Shams Mulani 50 not out; Harsh Dubey 5-144, Yash Thakur 3-79) lead Vidarbha 105 & 248 for 5 in 92 overs (Karun Nair 74, Akshay Wadkar 56 not out,) by 290 runs.

–IANS/hs/

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