It’s been a historic season for Saurashtra. They lifted the Ranji Trophy title for the first time ever. They’ve been very consistent for the last few seasons but the Jaydev Unadkat-led side finally reaped rewards. They finished the group stages fourth in the Group A and B combined points table. But they upped their game in the knockouts and eventually won their first Ranji title. They lost just one game and won three. In the other games which were drawn, Saurashtra took the first-innings lead in each of them.
Hence, with their dream season coming to an end, here are five Five key highlights from Saurashtra’s historic Ranji win.
Jaydev Unadkat’s record breaking season
The Saurashtra skipper led from the front. Jaydev Unadkat had a mind-boggling season with the ball. 67 wickets at an average of 13.23 and a strike-rate of 28.2 were Unadkat’s returns in this Ranji season. Add to this, seven five-wicket hauls, out of which five of them were six-wicket hauls and one seven-fer.
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Every time, the chips seemed to be down in the field, it was Unadkat lifting everyone up with a defining spell. Be it any session, any stage of the game, the left-arm pacer was always up for the challenge and he gave it his all. Just take the final for instance, he may not have picked up wickets early in the game but when the team needed it, he was there and took vital wickets on the last day to seal the deal for Saurashtra.
One of the reasons why Saurashtra did so well was their skipper’s form. No other bowler had more wickets than him in this season and in fact, he fell just one wicket short of equalling the all-time Ranji record of 68 wickets in a season.
Senior batters stepping up, especially in the big games
This Saurashtra team is an experienced lot. They have quite a few players who’ve been playing domestic cricket for atleast four or five years, if not more. Hence, it was the responsibility of these senior players to lead the way and that’s exactly what they did.
The senior batters showed the way for a large part in this tournament. Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson and Arpit Vasavada were some of the most experienced players in the side and all three of them averaged in excess of 50 this season. While Pujara was in and out of the team due to international duty, Jackson and Vasavada stepped up and were consistent throughout the season. Both of them amassed more than 750 runs and were the pillars of the Saurashtra batting line-up.
The experienced trio got eight out of the 11 hundreds that Saurashtra players got in this season. It was the hunger to get big scores that always put Saurashtra ahead with the bat.
In fact, Jackson and Vasavada got tons in the big knockouts. The latter got a ton in both the semi-final and the final while Jackson made a century in the first innings of the semi-final. Pujara scored a fighting half-century in the final despite struggling with illness. Thus, come the big game, the senior trio raised their game and delivered for Saurashtra.
The all-rounders making an impact quietly
While most of the spotlight was on Unadkat and the batsmen, the all-rounders quietly did their job. They didn’t really hog any big limelight but were always putting up consistent performances and contributing.
Look at the performances of Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Chirag Jani and Prerak Mankad. All of them chipped in nicely with the bat and made a decent impact with the ball too. Yes, Jani and Mankad didn’t really have big numbers with the ball but their impact with the bat was really crucial.
Jani smashed a couple of hundreds and as many fifties and averaged 41.84 in this season. He picked up 17 wickets as well. Mankad made 445 runs averaging 29.66 while Jadeja scored 388 runs at an average of 29.84. But the latter picked up 32 wickets while Mankad chipped in with 23 scalps.
Ability to bounce back from tricky situations in key games
It wasn’t a coast or a free run for Saurashtra throughout this season. They’ve encountered multiple tricky situations and have found different ways of coming out of it. There were a couple of big moments in the semi-final and the final.
In the semis against Gujarat, Saurashtra were in huge trouble. In the first innings, they had recovered well from 162/5 to post 304. However, in the second essay, Chintan Gaja’s manic spell left them huffed and puffed at 15/5. They were just 67 runs ahead at that time and a defeat loomed large. Arpit Vasavada’s magnificent ton revived the innings as Saurashtra set a target of 326.
In the final, after opting to bat first on a slow wicket, it seemed like Saurashtra had conceded the advantage when they were reduced to 206/5. But that’s when Vasavada scored another ton and shared a brilliant stand with Pujara to help the hosts post a competitive total of 425.
Hence, Saurashtra had quite a few moments like these. Take the win over Baroda in a low-scoring game or even the first win over Himachal Pradesh, each of them were tricky in their own way.
Fourth time lucky
Saurashtra made it to four finals in the last eight years. No other team has made it to the Ranji final more than them since the start of the 2010s-decade. It was in 2012-13 that Saurashtra first qualified for the final in Ranji Trophy history. However, they backed it up with finals in 2015-16 and 2018-19 and fell short. Saurashtra suffered from three heartbreaks inside seven years. However, it was fourth time lucky.
Saurashtra made it to the final for the second successive season. But they went one better this time around as they gained a first-innings lead over Bengal to clinch their maiden Ranji title. They held their nerve on the final day of the final and eventually lifted the Ranji title.
It’s the result of some excellent brand of cricket and consistency that Saurashtra have showed over the last few years.