No, this is not an article about the history of Indian independence movement. This is also not an article on the raging debate over who was the more important leader in the nationalist movement in India – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or Jawahar Lal Nehru? This article, believe it or not, is about the Ranji Trophy semi-final that just got concluded.
Bengal had already booked their place in the final by defeating Karnataka earlier. But whom would they face in the final was yet to be decided as the intra-Gujarat clash between Saurashtra and Gujarat cricket team was still in progress in Rajkot.
Gujarat, led by Parthiv Patel, had been given a target of 327 runs to chase in the final innings of the match. They had to chase down the target in order to qualify for the finals as they had conceded a first-innings lead. Hence, playing for a draw wasn't an option. But for this team, all hope seemed lost when they were reduced to 635.
Then, the captain Patel was joined by Chirag Gandhi. The two batsmen – Patel and Gandhi – crafted a magnificent partnership which seemed to be taking the match towards a fairytale ending. Both players took the Gujarat team's score to 206 at tea time. This set up a delicious last session of the match where the visitors needed 121 to win with two set batsmen at the crease.
Parthiv also had experience of this type of situation. He had played a match-winning innings of 143 to help his team chase down a target of 313 to beat Mumbai in a previous Ranji Trophy final. The last session of the match begin in a perfect manner for Gujarat as they scored 15 runs in the first two overs, thanks to some lackluster bowling.
Jayadev Unadkat, who had already equaled the record for most wickets picked up by a seamer in a Ranji Trophy season – 62 – ran in to bowl the third over after tea to Parthiv Patel when the latter was on 93. Unadkat, the captain of his team as well, gave himself an attacking field with plenty of men behind the wicket.
And guess what, he got an outside edge of Patel's bat which was caught at first slip by Hardik – not Patel or Pandya – Desai to end the 158-run partnership that had promised so much. With 106 more runs needed and some batting talent still in the side, the match was far from over. Axar Patel walked in to bat. On the very first ball, he uppishly pushed the ball towards the bowler and Unadkat bent low and took a brilliant return catch to get two wickets of two balls and have Gujarat reeling at 221/7.
He didn't get the hattrick but had already broken Dodda Ganesh's record of 62 wickets in the 1998/99 season to become the most successful seamer in a Ranji season ever. On top of that, he was on a roll. Soon, he got the other prized scalp of Gandhi to all but assure his team of victory and finished off the match by dismissing no. 11 Arzan Nagwaswalla and bagging a 7-wicket haul.
Patel and Gandhi indeed tried very hard. But it was Unadkat's day and he rose to a new height in Indian cricket – albeit in the domestic sphere. Now, the lanky seamer, who hasn't been able to make much of an impact, will try to take his team to the Ranji title when they face Bengal, again at Rajkot, in the final.