The 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final between Saurashtra and Bengal, which is all set to be decided based on the first innings scores alone, is heading for a thrilling climax on day five at Rajkot. Bengal reached 354 for six at stumps on the fourth day, courtesy of a trio of middle-order half-centuries.
The equation for the fifth and final day of the ongoing season of the premier domestic tournament in Indian cricket is simple: Bengal need 72 runs; Saurashtra need 4 wickets before that. That the equation being pushed forward despite the first innings still not concluded might seem strange. But with just one day of cricket remaining, the matter really is that simple. Whoever gains the first innings lead will lift the trophy.
The fourth day of play provided another intriguing contest between bat and ball. Resuming play 292 runs behind with Saurashtra on top, Bengal snatched back the initiative with a stubborn century partnership between Sudip Chatterjee and Wriddhiman Saha, the wicket-keeper batsman doing exactly what his fellow Indian teammate Cheteshwar Pujara did for Saurashtra. With the duo both completing their half-centuries and going steady, Saurashtra pulled things back sharply in the second session. The hosts made up for going wicketless in the first session, by snapping up three in the middle session — including that of the two set batsmen.
With the visitors 263 for six, smiles returned to many of the faces in the Saurashtra camp. However, the in-form Anustup Majumdar — yes, him again — walked in at the fall of the fourth wicket and batted through to stumps, reaching yet another half-century in the process. He and Arnab Nandi did a stellar job to play out the final session without losing a wicket.
Having done it in the quarter-final and the semis, whether Majumdar will emerge Bengal’s hero once again is a tale yet to be told. The hosts, on the other hand, will hope in this season’s top wicket-taker and skipper Jaydev Unadkat, who has gone wicketless thus far, to lead them to glory.
Brief scores: Saurashtra 425 all-out in 171.5 overs (Arpit Vasavada 106, Cheteshwar Pujara 66; Akash Deep 4-98) vs Bengal 354/6 in 147 overs (Sudip Chatterjee 81; Wriddhiman Saha 64; Prerak Mankad 2-45).