The battle lines were drawn at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur as Vidarbha, the defending champions, locked horns with Saurashtra in a crucial Group A encounter of the Ranji Trophy 2024. Skipper Akshay Wadkar opted to bowl first, a decision that proved fruitful early on.
Openers Harvik Desai and Kevin Jivrajani started cautiously for Saurashtra, building a steady partnership of 63 runs. However, the arrival of veteran pacer Umesh Yadav turned the tide. Vishvaraj Jadeja’s brief stay at the crease was ended by Yadav, and soon after, the experienced Harvik Desai departed for 68.
Cheteshwar Pujara, playing for his home state, joined Desai at the crease and the duo began to rebuild the innings. But just as a partnership looked promising, Desai was dismissed, leaving Saurashtra at 153/3. Yadav continued his rampage, claiming the scalps of Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, and Prerak Mankad to dismantle the Saurashtra batting order.
ALSO READ: Zaheer Khan Casts Doubt On Rishabh Pant’s T20 World Cup Journey, Citing Fitness Challenges
By the end of the day, Saurashtra were bowled out for 206, with Yadav emerging as the undisputed star of the show. His fiery spell of 4/56 in 16 overs proved unplayable for the Saurashtra batsmen. No other Vidarbha bowler remained wicketless on Day 1, with Aditya Sarwate and Harsh Dubey chipping in with two wickets each, while Aditya Thakare and Yash Thakur picked up one apiece.
— चिरकुट ज़िंदगी (@Chirayu_Jain26) January 19, 2024
Meanwhile, Pujara’s Ranji Trophy campaign has been a mixed bag so far. He started with a monumental 243 against Jharkhand, but the match ended in a draw with Saurashtra taking the first-innings lead. The following game against Haryana saw Pujara registering scores of 49 and 43, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Haryana from securing a thrilling four-wicket victory.
On Day 1 against Vidarbha, Pujara came out to bat with the score at 87/2. He showcased his renowned defensive technique to navigate a challenging spell from his former India teammate Umesh Yadav. However, just as he seemed to be settling in, Pujara was dismissed by Thakare for 43.
With four wickets falling late in the day, Vidarbha were left reeling at 26/4 after 19 overs, trailing Saurashtra by 180 runs. The battle is far from over, and the remaining days of the match promise to be a nail-biting affair. With Umesh Yadav in red-hot form and Pujara looking to bounce back, all eyes will be on these two star players as the drama unfolds in Nagpur.