A half-fit Ravindra Jadeja proved his worth with a half-century and a brilliant run-out as Saurashtra comfortably beat Andhra by 59 runs to enter the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
The Cheteshwar Pujara-led team will lock horns with Karnataka in the final on February 27 after a dominating show on a low and slow Kotla track.
Jadeja, who did not play in the quarter-final due to a side-strain, was not allowed to bowl for the next three weeks but that did not stop him from chipping in with a 51-ball-56 which helped Saurashtra get out of the rut to post a decent 255 in 49.1 overs.
In reply, Andhra started off confidently but then as it happens with the minnows, they could not handle the pressure on a big day and were all out for 196 in 45.3 overs.
While another left-arm spinner Dharmendra Jadeja (4/40 in 10 overs) was the pick of the bowlers, Jadeja’s direct throw from short fine leg, accounted for in-form former India U-19 captain Ricky Bhui (13).
Jadeja came to the crease after Cheteshwar Pujara’s painstaking (17 off 53 balls) innings ended in a mis-timed pull-shot leaving Saurashtra reeling at 69 for 4.
Along with another young left-hander Arpit Vasavada (58 off 59 balls, 4×4, 2×6), Jadeja added 113 runs for the fifth wicket. Jadeja’s innings had four boundaries and a six.
Had he hung around, a century was there for the taking before he was run-out going for a second run.
Coach Shitansu Kotak, who himself has been a Saurahstra giant during his playing days, want a repeat of 2008 season, when they thrashed Bengal in the final.
“During that season, we had beaten Karnataka in the knock-outs. I was playing for Saurashtra then. Then last season, in Patiala, we again beat Karnataka in a days’ match. So I am confident that boys will do well,” Kotak said after the match.
He was all praise for Jadeja’s commitment despite not being hundred percent fit.
“Jadeja has been advised not to bowl for three weeks by the team physio due to the side strain, which he sustained during the league phase while trying an under-arm flick throw. Despite that he has shown excellent commitment. In the league stage match against Jharkhand, he was feeling the pain constantly. I sent the 12th man and told him that get your 50 and come out but he told me, let me win it for the team. He got a hundred (Saurashtra chased 330),” a beaming Kotak said.
The best part about the team has been its bench-strength, feels the dogged left-hander of yesteryears.
“We have performed well despite injuries. Someone like Robin (UThappa) is also not fit. I had to at least play one among Robin and Jadeja. Also the bowling performance is a testimony to our bench strength,” Kotak added.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 255 in 49.1 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 56 off 51 balls, Arpit Vasavada 58 off 59 balls, Cheteshwar Pujara 17 off 53 balls).
Andhra 196 in 45.3 overs (B Sumath 42, Dharmendra Jadeja 4/40).