Vidarbha clinches second straight Irani Cup title

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Vidarbha became first side since Karnataka in the 2014-15 season to defend Irani Cup title as they completed their fairtytale 2018-19 season by emerging winner of Irani Cup tie against Rest of India at the Jamtha Stadium in Nagpur on Saturday (February 16) thanks to a 95-run first innings lead after the match ended in a draw.

The Ranji Trophy champions remained unbeaten through the season and showed plenty of heart as they chased a 280-run target on the final day.

The match came to a surprise end with Vidarbha needing just 11 runs for an outright win. Hanuma Vihari’s first ball, the 104th over of the innings, brought the wicket of Vidarbha top-scorer Ganesh Satish and almost immediately both captains — Vidarbha’s Faiz Fazal and Rest of India’s Ajinkya Rahane — decided to settle for a draw with still almost 10 overs remaining and the total on 269/5.

The home side became the first team since Karnataka in the 2014-15 season to defend their Irani Cup title. One of the architects of the chase was Satish. The 29-year-old, who shifted base from Karnataka to Vidarbha in 2014-15, is now a two-time Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup champion.

Satish, who moved to Vidarbha looking for more opportunities up the batting order, guided the young Vidarbha side with a confident and mature knock of 87 off 168 balls. The No. 4 batsman completed his 50 off 102 balls and made up for a modest Ranji Trophy campaign where he only scored 507 runs in 11 games at an average of 33.80.

It was by Satish’s knock and Akshay Karnewar’s maiden first-class ton in the first innings which set up Vidarbha’s fine victory. Young Karnewar was the man-of-the-match for his century.

Vidarbha would have been forgiven if they performed below par after defending their Ranji Trophy crown just a week back. The Ranji champions were missing stalwart Wasim Jaffer and their premier paceman Umesh Yadav for this tie but their ‘never-say-die’ attitude came to be fore.

Atharwa Taide is just 19 years of age and playing in only his fourth first-class match but notched up a crucial innings of 72 off 185 balls — just his second first-class fifty.

The India Under-19 batsman blunted the Rest of India attack after coming out in the opening over of the innings. Taide put on 116 runs for the second wicket with another youngster in opener Sanjay Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy followed up his first-innings fifty with 42 (131). The duo almost negotiated the first session without any trouble before Rajasthan leg-spinner Rahul Chahar trapped Ramaswamy in front.

Chahar and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja spun the ball sharply on the wearing Jamtha track. The leg-spinner also dismissed young Taide. The Vidharbha southpaw went back to Chahar’s leg-spinner to be trapped plumb in front.

At 146/3, Rahane would have felt his side had sniff at making further in-roads. But Ganesh Satish in company of Mohit Kale (35 off 90 balls) showed fine temperament and great defensive resolve to put on 81 runs for the fourth wicket.

Kale was dismissed at the stroke of tea when he top-edged Jadeja to Tanveer Ul-Haq at square leg. Vidarbha now end their four-day campaign for the season on a triumphant note and will begin preparation for the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament.

Brief scores: Rest of India 330 & 374/3 decl drew with 425 & 269/5 (Ganesh Satish 87, Atharwa Taide 72; Rahul Chahar 2/116)