Mumbai clinch 42nd Ranji title despite impressive Vidarbha resistance


Ajinkya Rahane led Mumbai clinched their 42nd Ranji Trophy title.

Mumbai, the eternal trophy-hunters of Ranji Trophy cricket, reclaimed silverware after eight seasons with an emphatic 169-run win over Vidarbha in the final at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday (March 14). While the margin of victory was mammoth, the hosts did have to endure a tough resistance from Vidarbha's skipper Akshay Wadkar (102) and his 130-run stand with Harsh Dubey (65) that kept Mumbai's victory march at bay for a considerable amount of time.

The morning session on the final day belonged to Vidarbha as Wadkar and Dubey continued their overnight partnership through till the lunch break without being troubled in any significant manner. The surface, despite being on the slower side, still had some turn in it for the spinners and variable bounce also came in good measure. However, Wadkar and Dubey dug in, blunting everything Mumbai threw at them to raise hopes of the improbable. But with a mountain of runs needed, Mumbai's destiny only seemed one wicket away. Tanush Kotian provided that by getting Wadkar LBW to a sharp off break.

Tushar Deshpande struck in the next over with the short ball ploy to bounce out Dubey to re-start the march. The short ball ploy from Deshpande also had an half-fit Aditya Sarvate miscuing a pull while Kotian cleaned up Yash Thakur. With the last wicket left, skipper Ajinkya Rahane tossed the ball to the outgoing Dhawal Kulkarni who duly finished off the formalities in his farewell game by castling Umesh Yadav. In hindsight, it is the first innings performance that would haunt Vidarbha for a long time to come. First the inability to close out things with the ball and then the shoddy batting display thereafter.

Having opted to bowl in seamer-friendly conditions, the visitors overcame a shaky start with the ball to trigger a Mumbai collapse from 81/0 to 111/6. However, as has been the norm over the years and in the knockouts this season as well, Mumbai's famed lower order came to the rescue led by usual suspect Shardul Thakur (75), whose counterattack left Vidarbha clueless. It was adventurous batting no doubt but the tourists were also guilty of not having clarity in their plans against Thakur who ensured that Mumbai got a respectable total on the board.

Thakur then set the tone with the ball as well by getting Dhruv Shorey for a duck before Kulkarni (3-15) ripped through the top order. Spinners Tanush Kotian (3-7) and Shams Mulani (3-32) carried on the wicket-taking spree for Mumbai as Vidarbha were bowled out in just a session on the second morning. That batting performance proved critical in the context of the game as the 119-run first innings lead gave Mumbai the cushion they needed to bat their way out of crisis in the second innings. Musheer Khan (136) produced his second ton of the knockouts while Shreyas Iyer (95) and Ajinkya Rahane (73) also made notable contributions.

Musheer played a classic red-ball knock, grinding Vidarbha's bowlers to dust with a near flawless innings. His solidity at one end allowed Rahane and then Iyer to keep the scoreboard ticking. Mulani also added a half-century to push Mumbai's lead past the 500-run mark. In contrast to their first innings, Vidarbha's bowlers had to really toil in the second essay with only Dubey (5-144) proving to be a constant threat. Once the target of 538 was set, few expected Vidarbha to drag the game midway through day five but Wadkar and Dubey put on an admirable partnership.

Eventually, Mumbai's big-game mentality came to the fore to rescue them, crucially on the first two days and then on the final day when Wadkar and Dubey threatened to do the improbable.

Brief scores: Mumbai 224 and 418 (Musheer Khan 136, Shreyas Iyer 95; Harsh Dubey 5-144) beat Vidarbha 105 and 368 (Akshay Wadkar 102, Harsh Dubey 65; Tanush Kotian 4-95) by 169 runs