Vidarbha in sight of title

Takes 233-run lead, thanks to Wadkar’s maiden unbeaten ton

Indore : Vidarbha on Sunday inched closer to a maiden Ranji Trophy title by grabbing a commanding 233-run lead against a Delhi side that looked defeated for better part of the day, as little-known Akshay Wadkar chose first-class cricket’s biggest stage to compile his maiden century.

Playing in his fifth match of first season, wicketkeeper Wadkar rose to the occasion and remained unbeaten on 133 in a team total of 528 for seven at stumps on the third day here.

In the final session, Siddhesh Neral entertained the crowd with 56 off 92 deliveries, while hitting four boundaries and as many sixes.        Delhi were bowled out for 295 in their first innings.

Aditya Sarwate, with whom Wadkar stitched a decisive 169 -run partnership for the seventh wicket, contributed a handsome 79 off 154 balls at the Holkar Stadium that witnessed a decent turnout.

Vidarbha, who resumed their innings at overnight 206 for four, showed the intent from the beginning and capitalised on Delhi’s lack of discretion and enthusiasm.

The seven-time winners looked shoddy on the field, dropped catches, including a crucial one off the blade of seasoned Wasim Jaffer (78) at the start of day.

Rishabh Pant lacked ideas as the skipper of the side and his outing behind the stumps left a lot to be desired. He was also guilty of missing a stumping chance.

But Delhi may have paid dearly for the miss by Kunal Chandela in second slip in fourth ball of the day’s first over. Running in hard and hitting the deck harder, a charged up Navdeep Saini had induced an edge from Jaffer but Chandela, who dived to his left ahead of first slip fielder Dhruv Shorey, spilled the offer.

Jaffer may have added only 17 runs after the reprieve, but by the time he got out after an hour and a half stay in the middle, Saini was tiring following an extended first spell that saw him bowl 10.5 overs for two wickets.

The young pacer, who often hit the early 140s, was thus deprived of a chance to run through the Vidarbha lower-order.

Eventually, it was Saini who sent back Jaffer, the multiple-time Ranji Trophy winners with Mumbai, when he caugh him plumb in front of the wicket with a ball that came in slightly.

While Delhi lacked zest, Vidarbha gradually sought to take control of the game, and the dismissal of Jaffer for 78 did not affect them.

That was primarily due to the duo of Wadkar and Sarwate, who played smarty to wear down the bowlers and fielders and take the match away from their opponents.

The 23-year-old Wadkar laced his innings with 16 boundaries and a six straight over left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra’s head.

The lack of quality spin options hurt Delhi as the bulk of the load was shared by the pace duo of Saini and Kulwant Khejroliya on an unresponsive pitch.

Akash Sudan was far from impressive and posed no threat to the Vidarbha batsmen.

Delhi’s cause was not helped by the fact that Manan Sharma was off the field for a long time, curtailing further the team’s spin options.

Veteran Gautam Gambhir was conspicuous by his absence after lunch and that also did not help either, as the young Pant looked bereft of ideas. The out-of-favour India opener also dropped a catch off Vikas Mishra at first slip, the beneficiary being Sarwate.

 It was later learnt that Gambhir has sustained a finger injury while fielding.

Meanwhile, Wadkar got to the three-figure mark with a confident smack over the mid-on fielder, as his family members in the stands rose to applaud.

Riding on his good fortune, Neral clobbered the Delhi bowlers even as no balls saved him twice off the bowling of Khejroliya.

 While they racked up 130 runs in the first session for two wickets, Vidarbha strengthened their grip further with Wadkar and Sarwate first and then Neral joining the party.

Injury woes for Delhi

Indore : If the day-long toil in the field was not enough, injury worries to key players Gautam Gambhir, Navdeep Saini and Manan Sharma further compounded Delhi’s misery in the Ranji Trophy final.

According to coach K P Bhaskar, left-arm spinner Manan will not be a part of the match anymore owing to a knee injury.

He was seen with a bandaged knee after the end of the third day’s play at the Holkar Stadium here.

Manan got injured while diving on the boundary line at the start of Vidar

bha’s innings on Saturday. Gambhir walked in the post-lunch session, holding his thumb, while the team’s best bowler Saini has pulled a hamstring.

While Manan was ruled out, Gambhir and Saini would turn up on Monday. Delhi were made to toil by a determined Vidarbha, gunning for their first title triumph, with the little-known Akshay Wadkar compiling his maiden century.

Centurion Wadkar said he has the confidence to thrive under pressure.

“I was not part of team in the first three matches but then I performed in the local matches, scoring two-three fifties and a century, and was then selected in the team. My aim was to capitalize on the chance I got. First match I could not, in the quarterfinal the team was in difficult situation, but I have the confidence to play under pressure. (Coach Chandrakant Pandit) Sir also has faith in me,” Wadkar said at the end of the day. Asked what was going in his mind when he walked out to bat, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper from Nagpur said: “Starting was crucial, Wasim (jaffer) bhai just told me to watch the ball and not think about the swing. Pressure was there after Wasim bhai’s departure.”

 Wadkar shared a decisive 169-run stand for the seventh wicket with Aditya Sarwate (79) to tilt the game in Vidarbha’s favour.

“It was important to build a partnership. My bonding with Aditya is very good, we know our strong points and weaknesses. We communicate whenever the need arises.”

When asked about Siddhesh Neral’s entertaining half- century, which included four sixes, Wadkar said:”Neral said “I will go for the shots, luck is on my side it seems’ (Neral got two reprieves) and “I don’t know about tomorrow’.”

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