After the fall of Karnataka’s final wicket, Rajneesh Gurbani fell to the ground and burst into tears of joy. His teammates were emotional as well, for the side had created history.
Vidarbha entered its maiden Ranji Trophy final after a five-run upset victory over Karnataka, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. The encounter witnessed twists and turns until the very end — it was one for the ages.
Karnataka started the day as the clear underdog, needing 87 runs with three wickets in hand. An hour into the start of play, a calm Shreyas Gopal (24 n.o., 57b) and a counter-attacking A. Mithun (33, 26b, 5×4) took Karnataka to within nine runs of the target. A mild sense of panic permeated through the Vidarbha camp. Mithun then attempted one shot too many. A length delivery from pace star Rajneesh Gurbani was skied high and taken by Aditya Sarwate at wide third-man.
Last man S. Arvind — more than capable of sticking around at the crease — lasted six balls. Gurbani picked up his seventh wicket of the innings, and 12th for the match, when he got Arvind to drive uppishly. A thick edge flew to Apoorv Wankhade at gully, who pocketed the chance safely. Wankhade set off on a celebratory sprint, while the entire squad — including coach Chandrakant Pandit — rushed onto the field.
“It is an extraordinary achievement. We have created history on a special ground like Eden Gardens. This occasion will be remembered forever,” Pandit said.
The coach, who took charge at the start of this season, added that Vidarbha showed mental fortitude to emerge victorious. “Before we entered the field today, we knew it was a 50-50 game. Whoever showed desperation would lose, and whoever showed patience would win. It was very important to stick to the plan,” Pandit said.
This ability to follow instructions in tense instructions was best illustrated by Gurbani. Overnight batsman Vinay Kumar went after the speedster, carting him over mid-on and mid-wicket in the same over. Captain Faiz Fazal stepped in, and asked his nervous bowler to correct his line and length. The very next ball, Gurbani landed one on the corridor of uncertainty. An eager Vinay erred by playing away from the body, and edged it to the wicket-keeper.
A relieved Fazal explained, “We had a simple plan — bowl in the right areas, and you will be rewarded. We are absolutely delighted, but the major goal — to lift the Ranji Trophy — is yet to be achieved. We will celebrate tonight, but the celebrations will end tonight itself.”