Unadkat, Jackson lead Saurashtra's fightback before ROI regain control to win the Irani Cup

ROI recorded an eight-wicket victory over the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy champions in the marquee Indian domestic first-class encounter. 
Irani Cup?width=963&height=541&resizemode=4

Saurashtra fought hard in the back half of their second-innings batting effort but ROI ultimately prevailed after dominating the first-innings. 

Rest of India made a comfortable feast of chasing down the measly 105-run target in the final innings of their clash against Ranji 2019-20 champions Saurashtra to clinch the Irani Cup in Rajkot this Tuesday (October 4). 

ROI chased down the score in 31.2 overs on Day 4 of the marquee first-class game of the Indian domestic calendar, losing just two wickets in the process. Abhimanyu Easwaran, who missed out in the first-innings, made some timely amends with an unbeaten 63 off 78 balls to take his team home with eight wickets intact. 

That ROI only had to chase 105 for a victory on the penultimate afternoon of the five-day game was purely down to a fantastic allround effort by them in the first three innings of the fixture. Saurashtra's Irani Cup dreams were virtually shattered on the opening day itself, when their batters displayed insipid technical acumen on a surface with a bit of tinge of green to fold for just 98. 

Bengal's steady seam bowler Mukesh Kumar (4/23) combined seamlessly with the pace and bounce that Umran Malik (3/25) and Kuldeep Sen (3/41) extracted off the surface. The trio gave Saurashtra batters zero breathing space, which triggered their downfall for less than 100. Only Dharmendra Jadeja (28), while he was there, showed a defense strong enough to withstand the quality of the bowling on offer. 

Saurashtra's batting struggled even in their second-innings effort, being reduced to 87 for 5 at one stage. This time it was left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar, who build the inroads for his team with an impressive three-fer (3/80). At the other end, Kuldeep put a great deal of pressure on the opposition batters as well and ended up producing a five-wicket haul (5/94) to back his haul of three scalps in the first innings. 

ROI script win over Saurashtra to lift the Irani Cup

Five down before they could even reach 100, Saurashtra were staring at a massive innings defeat at the point, with ROI taking a gigantic lead of 276 runs. But the former Ranji champions showed their skill and gumption with an admirable fightback, led by their stalwart wicketkeeper-batter Sheldon Jackson (71). Jackson combined brilliantly with No.7 Arpit Vasavada, who also batted with great defiance through his knock of 55 off 127 balls. 

The Jackson-Vasavada duo took Saurashtra from 87 for 5 to 204, when the former was dismissed caught while playing an uppish drive through the cover region against Mukesh. That, however, was not the end of his team's courageous fightback, as the wicket of Vasavada on 215/7 followed another great partnership under pressure between veteran seamer Jaydev Unadkat and Prerak Mankad. 

Unadkat nearly matched his highest first-class score of 92 in what was a counterattacking knock of 89 off 133 balls, including 10 fours and 2 sixes. With the seam movement dying out and ROI pacers tiring, Unadkat stitched a terrific eighth-wicket partnership of 144 runs with Mankad, who reinforced his batting potential with a knock of 72 off just 83 deliveries. It was this duo that took the game into Day 4, before ROI came roaring back in the morning. 

Also Read - Who is Mukesh Kumar, the newbie in India's ODI squad for the South Africa Series?

ROI might have been chasing a trickier score than they eventually did if not for another fighting lower-order effort for the match. Saurabh, known more for his skiddy but incisive left-arm spin, produced a half-century (55) when ROI were vulnerable of losing out on a decisive first-innings lead at 237/5. 

That despite Sarfaraz Khan hammering another century (138) to his name in what is a path-breaking phase for him with the bat. ROI were 18/3 when Sarfaraz joined skipper Hanuma Vihari, whose precise footwork and defensive technique stood out for what was a resolute 82. 

Chetan Sakariya with his 5 for 93 was perhaps the only real positive for Saurashtra with the ball in hand. 

Brief scores: Saurashtra 98/10 in 24.5 overs (Dharmendra Jadeja 28; Mukesh Kumar 4/23, Umran Malik 3/25) & 380/3 in 103 overs (Jaydev Unadkat 89, Prerak Mankad 72; Kuldeep Sen 5/94) lost to Rest of India 374/10 in 110 overs (Sarfaraz Khan 138, Hanuma Vihari 82; Chetan Sakariya 5/93) & 105/2 in 31.2 overs (Abhimanyu Easwaran 63*, KS Bharat 27*; Jaydev Unadkat 2/37) by 8 wickets