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Arpit Vasavada puts Saurashtra on top against Bengal in Ranji Trophy final




Three years after crushing Bengal’s Ranji Trophy hopes in the final, Arpit Vasavada upset them once again at the same stage on Friday, scoring an unbeaten 81 to take Saurashtra closer to their second title. The Saurashtra vice-captain, whose 106 got him a match-winning first innings lead in the 2020 final in Rajkot, once again got under Bengal’s skin, with Sheldon Jackson (59) and Chirag Jani (57 not out) Two major partnerships. , The pair of Vasavada and Jani, unbroken in a 113-run partnership, pushed the run-rate up in the post-tea session, increasing their first-innings lead to 143.

Saurashtra’s score was 317 for 5 at close of two days in reply to Bengal’s 174 runs.

Fresh from his match-winning double century against Karnataka in the semi-finals, Vasavada continued from where he had left off with his unbeaten knock off 155 balls. He hit 11 fours.

Jani also showed ease in hitting 10 boundaries as the duo set the conditions, especially in the final session.

Their pace-heavy attack proved to be a major letdown, with Bengal taking 46 minutes to make their first breakthrough of the morning session.

Meanwhile, overnight batsman Harvik Desai (50) brought up his 12th half-century in a strong partnership with night-watchman Chetan Sakaria, who scored eight off 45 balls in the first hour.

Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel removed Desai and Sakariya just eight runs apart, but then left-armer Vasavada took control with Jackson in a 95-run partnership to take Bengal past 174.

Experienced Jackson gifted his wicket by scoring his 35th half-century. He mistimed Ishan Porel’s delivery to fine leg.

But Jani piled on Bengal’s plight with his entertaining strokeplay in a century-plus partnership that virtually sealed their second Ranji victory.

Making full use of a 26-run relief when Shahbaz Ahmed dropped a sitter, Jani brought up his 13th first-class half-century in 72 balls.

After the play resumed after the tea break that was extended for 20 minutes due to bad light, Jani stepped on the gas as he drove, pulled and pulled straight one too gracefully.

Conditions on the second day at Eden Gardens were hazy and gloomy and this was reflected in the home team’s line-up as their pace-heavy attack failed to gain control in the first hour of play.

Akash Deep erred in line and bowled mostly at fifth and sixth stumps, while star pacer Mukesh was well denied by the overnight pair of wicketkeeper-batsman Desai and Sakariya.

Sakariya took a few blows to his body, but stood firm to stop Bengal’s pace attack before conditions eased.

Unlike the first day, the pitch looked brown and the pacers were not getting much help, while Akash Deep looked a shadow of his past.

Desai was the first wicket to fall when he failed to read the line as Mukesh Kumar’s delivery trapped him behind.

Porel chose to attack and played a fine delivery to clip Sakariya’s off-stump.

This was a time when Bengal could have made some more inroads with two new batsmen Jackson and Vasavada at the crease.

But Akash Deep, giving freebies, threw the ball on the pads. Both Jackson and Vasavada played brilliant cover drives and there was no looking back.

Brief Scores: Bengal 174 vs Saurashtra 317/5 in 87 overs (Harvik Desai 50, Sheldon Jackson 59, Arpit Vasavada 81 not out, Chirag Jani 57 not out; Mukesh Kumar 2/83, Ishan Porel 2/72). Saurashtra lead by 143 runs.

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