Following heartbreaks in 2012-13, 2015-16 (both against Mumbai), and 2018-19 finals (against Vidarbha), Saurashtra edged out Bengal on first-innings lead in the 2019-20 final to become the newest team to win the Ranji Trophy. In the process, Saurashtra join Baroda and Gujarat as the teams from Gujarat to have triumphed in Indian domestic cricket's premier competition.
Except for a loss to Uttar Pradesh in the group-stage, Saurashtra did not lose another game during their 11-match Ranji Trophy campaign in 2019-20 which culminated with their maiden title in the competition where they made their first appearance in 1950-51. On that note, let's look at the three players who had the most vital role that made the title run possible.
#3 Arpit Vasavada (763 runs; 4 hundreds)
Arpit Vasavada was one of five players to score 4 centuries during the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy. Perhaps, it is not insignificant to note that Saurashtra lost their only game of the campaign, against Uttar Pradesh in Rajkot, when Vasavada was not in the starting line-up.
The left-handed batsman stroked an unbeaten 134 in a group-stage game against Railways as Saurashtra raked up 497/9 in reply to their opponents' first-innings effort of 248 all out in Vishakhapatnam.
After missing the game against Uttar Pradesh where Saurashtra endured their lone defeat of the 2019-20 campaign, Vasavada scored an unbeaten 48 to lead his team to a six-wicket over Baroda after Saurashtra had conceded the first-innings lead in a low-scoring match.
Courtesy Vasavada's 132 and his partnership with Chirag Jani (124 not out), Saurashtra eked out a first-innings lead of 57 runs after Tamil Nadu had scored 424 in their first essay in Rajkot.
Vasavada produced the best innings of the campaign against Baroda in the semi-finals. Having taken a 52-run first-innings lead, Saurashtra slumped to 15/5 before the left-hander eked out vital partnerships with the lower order before being the last man out for 139 as his team reached a respectable score of 274. The runs proved to be their weight in gold as Baroda fell 92 runs short of their victory target of 327.
In the final against Bengal, Vasavada scored his fourth hundred of the season and shared a vital partnership of 142 runs with Cheteshwar Pujara as Saurashtra registered a score of 425 in their first innings. With Bengal falling for 381 in their first innings, the final was decided on a first-innings lead as Saurashtra clinched their first Ranji Trophy title.
#2 Sheldon Jackson (809 runs; 3 hundreds)
Sheldon Jackson was thick among the runs in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy, top-scoring for Saurashtra with 809 runs which included three hundreds and three fifties.
The wicketkeeper-batsman top-scored with 57 in Saurashtra's lone defeat of the campaign against Uttar Pradesh as the eventual champions conceded a huge 208-run deficit and were bowled out for 120 in their second innings to lose by an innings and 72 runs.
In the next game against Karnataka, Jackson's 169 along with Cheteshwar Pujara's 248 propelled Saurashtra to a mammoth first-innings total of 581/7 in Rajkot which was instrumental in the Gujarat-based team earn vital points for taking the first-innings lead.
Continuing his good form with the bat, Jackson scored 186 as Saurashtra were bowled out for 348 against Madhya Pradesh in Indore where they claimed another first-innings lead and narrowly missed out on an outright win after the hosts collapsed from 165/2 to 224/9 in their second innings.
After scoring 85 in the drawn game against Mumbai, where Saurashtra gamely hung on to avoid an outright defeat, Jackson scored his third hundred of the campaign in the semi-finals against Baroda as Saurashtra won a thriller by 92 runs to move into back-to-back Ranji Trophy finals.
#1 Jaydev Unadkat (67 wickets; 7 five-wicket hauls)
Captain Jaydev Unadkat led from the front as Saurashtra won the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy following a first-innings lead over Bengal in the final.
The left-armer's 67 wickets during the campaign marked the most by a fast bowler in a Ranji Trophy season, breaking Dodda Ganesh's erstwhile record of 62 wickets for Karnataka in 1998-99. Unadkat's 7 five-wicket hauls during the season is the most by a fast bowler in the Ranji Trophy, emulating Laxmipathy Balaji and Aniket Chaudhury as the only players to do so.
Unadkat's most significant performance of the season came in the semi-final thriller against Baroda as the leftarmer took 10 wickets in the match which included 7/56 in the second innings to lead his team to a 92-run victory. The left-armer, who last played for the national team in 2018, picked up 6/48 against Himachal Pradesh in a game Saurashtra won by 4 wickets, and another six-wicket haul (6/23) against Railways in a drawn match.
The Saurashtra captain's other five-wicket hauls came against Karnataka (5/49), 6-wickets in both innings in the group-stage win over Baroda, and one in the drawn game against Tamil Nadu.
Published 13 Mar 2020, 23:21 IST