Favourites Karnataka deservedly won their seventh Ranji Trophy title after beating a spirited Maharashtra side by seven wickets on the fifth and concluding day of the final match here today.
Chasing a modest victory target of 157 in little over two sessions, Karnataka batsmen reached the destination with ease as they knocked off the runs in 40.5 overs.
Robin Uthappa (36), KL Rahul (29) and Amit Verma (38) made useful contributions as Karnataka made amends for their disappointing six-run loss during the 2009-10 final against Mumbai.
Young opener Rahul was awarded the man-of-the-match for his century in the first innings while Karnataka were richer by Rs 2 crore.
Maharashtra earned a purse of Rs 1 crore but what would be more disappointing is the fact that they couldn’t break their more than seven decade long jinx of not being able to win the national title.
But one needs to laud Maharashtra for trying to make a match of it despite being down and out by the second day itself.
Starting the final day at 272 for six, Maharashtra’s tail wagged as they scored 366 with Shrikant Mundhe contributing 42 off 75 balls.
The target of 157 was never going to be a tall-order for Karnataka with huge depth in their batting. Although Maharashtra seamer Samad Fallah intially asked some questions but Uthappa hit a flurry of boundaries to help Karnataka stay firmly on course.
His 47-ball innings had six boundaries and he was especially severe on left-arm spinner Akashay Darekar, repeatedly giving him the charge as the first wicket partnership yielded 65 runs.
Rahul on the otherhand, was playing second fiddle to Uthappa before he launched into one Chirag Khurana over where he lifted him for consecutive sixes over long on before cutting him past point for a boundary.
Manish Pandey (28 no) and find-of-the-season Karun Nair (20 no) finished with a flourish as he hit Khurana for a boundary and lofted him staright for a six to finish the match.
A pleased captain R Vinay Kumar, who also completed 300 wickets in first-class cricket said that it was nothing compared to lifting the Ranji Trophy.
“Ranji Trophy is bigger than individual achievements (300 wickets). We all worked very hard for this, with the support staff and it’s an amazing moment. We’ve been doing well for many years but we couldn’t win in 2009-10 and then made the quarter-finals but couldn’t go further.
“So we wanted to win it this time and it’s a superb team effort. Most of the players are around 25-26 years and they all want to play for the country, they all aim big and are doing well. We had the ability to win and the belief and took it forward match by match as a positive unit. Lifting the Ranji Trophy is a great honour and I’d like to thank my team-mates for that.”
A normally reticent junior Rahul said that he was happy to have saved his best for the last.
“I was hoping I would save my best for the end and that’s what happened. I took it one game at a time and that helped my batting. I was getting the starts but was not covering them.
“All my team-mates supported and pushed me to do well. We wanted to enjoy the batting and the bowlers put a lot of pressure, so our plan was to attack the spinners. Always a dream to win Ranji Trophy.”
Maharashtra skipper Motwani on his part harped on the positives.
“Extremely proud of my side, they have been showing a lot character from game one, there are a lot of positives. They have been working hard as a unit.
Motwani did admit that dropping four catches on the second day cost them heavily.
“Catches win matches and that was important and we dropped a few but we overcame quite well on the second day with seven wickets. If we had taken those, we would have given a better fight. When we made it to quarter-finals, that’s when we thought we can lift the Ranji Trophy.
“The hope started building up from there, even the Bengal game finished in three games. Only thing was we didn’t bat well on day one and things didn’t go our way. The batting – Jadhav, Khadiwale, Bawne and till No. 8 they all contributed, with the bowlers who took 35-40 wickets.”