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Monday, June 01, 2020

Jaydev Unadkat bowls Saurashtra into Ranji finals

Jaydev Unadkat not only shattered the timber first and then dreams of Gujarat but he gave Saurashtra another chance to clinch the title which they have never won.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Published: March 5, 2020 3:00:54 am
Jaydev Unadkat celebrates after leading Saurashtra into the Ranji Trophy final. (Screengrab/Hotstar)

Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat’s seven-wicket haul enabled Saurashtra to reach the finals of Ranji Trophy for the second successive year as they beat Gujarat by 92 runs on the final day at Rajkot’s Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium. Unadkat not only shattered the timber first and then dreams of Gujarat but he gave Saurashtra another chance to clinch the title which they have never won.

With this win, Saurashtra entered the finals of Ranji Trophy for the fourth time in last eight years proving their consistency in domestic cricket. The final day had some notable twists and turns. In the afternoon, things had looked vastly different as Gujarat’s most experienced pair of Parthiv Patel and Chirag Gandhi were leading a great fightback while chasing a score of 327 runs. Gujarat were 63 for 5 at one stage and it looked Saurashtra would have an easy ride ahead before the two seasoned campaigners of Gujarat— Gandhi and Patel put up a courageous roadblock.

Unadkat too sensed the game slipping away from his hands, and realised something needed to be done to break the partnership. He knew one good ball could do the trick. But this Rajkot track was notorious for being friendly to batsmen.

Parthiv and Gandhi had added 158 runs for the sixth wicket and Gujarat needed 106 more to register an emphatic win in the semis. They were cruising slowly.

“Someone said we will get wickets with the new ball. The new ball was due only after 16 overs and by then the game would have been over. So I just waited for tea because they were playing really well and I wanted that break desperately. I knew if I had to do it for the team, it would have to be after tea when they are not sure how to go about the last session,” Unadkat recalled those moments.

For a pacer, who was in supreme form throughout the season, it was a now-or-never moment. Unadkat knew that only he could break the partnership. He boasted how nobody knew better than him how to bowl on this black soil.

“On a good pitch one bowls five good balls and chances are out of five, two will give you a wicket. Here (Rajkot), out of ten balls one ball might give you a chance of a wicket. I was waiting for that one ball which does something after landing,” he recalls.

When it happened, Parthiv had moved tentatively forward, and tried to defend. But by the time he could get his full bat in the way the ball had kissed his bat and sailed towards first slip to see a simple catch by Harvik Desai. The wicket changed the course of the game and to Saurashtra’s delight, Unadkat got another wicket next ball.

Double strike

He took a low catch off his own bowling to see all-rounder Axar Patel depart first ball. With two wickets in two balls, Saurashtra knew the game was in their hands and it was a matter of time, pressure would play its own tricks on the Gujarat lower order. Gandhi tried to cut Unadkat but played on for a gritty 96. The Saurashtra captain got the last man Arzan Nagwaswalla to finish the game with a ten-wicket match-haul.

It has been a dream season for Unadkat, he has taken 65 wickets in nine matches. Seven times he took a five wicket-haul, of which three came on that so-called Rajkot track, which has always been termed as patta.

“They have a long batting line-up and we discussed in the morning as well that we won’t be bogged down due to a partnership or two. But when you are on the field and such a partnership takes place, there are some nerves. But I felt the spell after tea was going to be the game-changing spell, and if someone could do it, it had to be me. And I am just happy that when we needed a wicket, I was able to provide it,” he later said.

Saurashtra will take on Bengal in the final at Rajkot’s Khanderi Stadium next from March 9. The home team will be boosted by the presence of Cheteshwar Pujara while Bengal will see Wriddhiman Saha back in the squad. Bengal has reached the final after 13 years in which time Saurashtra has been runner-up thrice. Unadkat reckons this could be their chance.

Brief scores:

Saurashtra: 304 and 274 beat Gujarat: 252 and 234 overs (Chirag Gandhi 96, Parthiv Patel 93; Jaydev Unadkat 7/56) by 92 runs.

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