Ranji Trophy 2017/18 Final, Day 3 round-up: Vidarbha on verge of history after securing massive first innings lead
Vidarbha 528/7 (Wadkar 133*, Sarwate 79; Saini 3/126) lead Delhi 295 (Shorey 145, Himmat Singh 66; Gurbani 6/59) by 233 runs
The third day of the Ranji Trophy final of 2017/18 virtually confirmed the winners after underdogs Vidarbha achieved a huge 233-run lead over Delhi. While they were behind by 89 overnight, veteran batsman Wasim Jaffer got 78 before Vidarbha's youngsters entered the frame with handsome contributions.
Akshay Wadkar got his maiden first-class hundred in a composed knock of 133*, which included 16 fours and a six. His continued application and concentration at the crease slowly drained the opposition bowlers on a day they struggled to remove the Vidarbha batsmen.
After Jaffer fell, Wadkar found Aditya Sarwate for good company. The talented pair strung together 169 runs and took Vidarbha beyond Delhi's total of 295. Sarwate got 79 in a patient innings which sapped favourites Delhi's energy.
Though Navdeep Saini sent back Jaffer and Akshay Wakhare cheaply, both he and Kulwant Khejroliya struggled as Delhi repeatedly missed chances either though dropped catches or getting a wicket off a no-ball. Number nine Siddhesh Neral joined Wadkar at the crease with the scoreboard reading 415/7, and the duo was involved in a defining partnership of over 100 to virtually finish off Delhi's chances. All of Delhi's bowlers toiled hard with Akash Sudan, Saini, Khejroliya and Vikas Mishra all bowling at least 27 overs with no real reward.
Neral finished not out on 56 in an aggressive innings in which he hit four boundaries and four sixes. The partnership stood undefeated at 113, with Vidarbha now all but confirmed to lift their maiden Ranji title by virtue of a massive first innings lead of 233. Delhi's best bowler remained Saini who worked very hard for figures of 3/126.
With two days remaining, Delhi have a huge task at hand to at least try and push for a win, else it will be Vidarbha, under inspiring seniors Faiz Fazal and Jaffer, who will walk away with the honours.