Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Vidarbha Tighten the Noose as Saurashtra Struggle at 158/5

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Saurashtra and India batting star Cheteshwar Pujara’s early dismissal just before tea was enough to throw open the Ranji Trophy final, with Vidarbha responding well on the second day.

Pujara, who has been in a red-hot form after returning from a triumph Australian tour. However, he failed to convert the same in the first innings, with left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate dismissing him for only one.

As a result, Saurashtra was left struggling at 158 for five before calling it a day, still trailing Vidarbha (312/10) by 154 runs.

As the wicket starts to help the spinners, it will be interesting to see how the Rajkot based side plays from hereon against Vidarbha’s tight spin bowling.

Snell Patel Impresses

Wicketkeeper Snell Patel with 87* (in 160 balls) was the only bright spot for Saurashtra, battling the hosts a big lead. The opener soaked in the pressure quite impressively. keeping the scoreboard ticking from time to time.

His stroke play was effortless and instinctive, with frequent boundaries whenever an opportunity arose.

Particularly speaking, Patels used his feet and sweeping power to high effect, never allowing the bowlers to settle down. His role tomorrow will be of prime importance on Tuesday.

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Patel almost got out in the 70s. “The wicket’s slow & it suits my style of play, which is off the back foot,” he said.

Vidarbha’s All-round Display

Apart from Patel, it was Vidarbha’s show on Monday. Resuming at a precarious 200/7, the hosts added as many as 112 runs in the morning.

It was the tailenders who stood high for the reigning champions. Ambidextrous bowler Akshay Karnewar (73), along with Akshay Wakhare (34) added a crucial 78 runs for the eighth wicket to ensure their team go past the 300-run mark.

Coming from that early scare to end the innings strongly seemed to give them a psychological edge. “The lower-order contribution gave us huge confidence,” expressed left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate.

The surface then started to support turn. With the Vidarbha spinners performing superiorly, it was Saurashtra’s batsmen were the one who suffered. Sarwate was at the thick of it all, picking up three wickets in the process.

It was skipper Faiz Fazal who had the conscience of bringing him in the third over that paid off. Fazal had sensed the scope for spinners, and his prediction was spot on.

“A wicket or two more would’ve been more satisfying,” said Sarwate, who has become Vidarbha’s highest wicket-taker with 47 scalps.

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