After falling to Mumbai in 2012-13 and 2015-16, and to Vidarbha in 2018-19, Saurashtra beat Bengal on first-innings lead in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final to become the newest team to win Indian cricket's premier domestic competition.
Since their first campaign in the Ranji Trophy in 1950-51, Saurashtra, in the process, become the third Gujarat-based team to triumph in the competition, the others being Gujarat and Baroda. Saurashtra are the third team from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat to win the Ranji Trophy, following the title runs of Nawanagar in 1936-37 and Western India in 1943-44.
After losing just once (against Uttar Pradesh) in a group containing Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mumbai, Railways, Baroda, and Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra finished fourth in the combined Group A and B table to qualify for the quarter-finals where they took on Andhra Pradesh.
Let's look at their path to becoming first-time champions, after being losing finalists thrice.
Saurashtra: 419 and 426 beat Andhra Pradesh: 136 and 149/4
Saurashtra rode on a century from Chirag Jani to post a formidable 419 in Ongole and opted not to enforce the follow-on after Andhra Pradesh were skittled out for a paltry 136 in reply. Instead, the Gujarat-based team batted big for the second time in the match. Facing an improbable target of 710 runs, Andhra scored 149/4 in their second essay as Saurashtra progressed based on their first-innings lead.
Saurashtra: 304 and 274 beat Baroda: 252 and 234.
The sternest tests of their title credentials was in the semi-finals. Saurashtra were taken to a good score thanks to Sheldon Jackson's well-made 103 as they were bowled out for 304 against Baroda in Rajkot. Baroda fought back from 97/6 but conceded a first-innings lead of 52 runs.
The lead almost proved insignificant when Saurashtra lost their first innings centurion Sheldon Jackson cheaply to see half their side back in the hut with only 15 runs on the board. However, a fine rearguard action between Arpit Vasavada (139) and Chirag Jani (51) saw last season's Ranji Trophy runner-up eventually bowled out for a respectable 274.
Chasing 327 runs for an outright victory, Baroda recovered from 63-5 to move to within a hundred runs of victory when Jaydev Unadkat dismissed Parthiv Patel for 93 to precipitate a collapse from 221/5 to 234 all out as the left-armer took 7 wickets in the innings.
Saurashtra: 425 and 105-4 beat Bengal: 381
Staying in Rajkot for the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final, their second successive one in as many campaigns in the competition, Saurashtra came up against Bengal who were looking to end their three-decade wait for the title.
Riding on a century from Arpit Vasavada and half-centuries from Avi Barot, Vishvaraj Jadeja, and Cheteshwar Pujara, Saurashtra posted 425 runs in their first innings. Bengal recovered from the early loss of their openers to reach 225/3 but Saurashtra kept pegging back the visitors with timely strikes.
With the final all set to be decided on who would take the first-innings lead, Bengal started Day 5 on 354-6, 71 runs away from Saurashtra's first innings score. A double-wicket maiden from Jaydev Unadkat derailed the visitors who were bowled for 381 runs to concede the all-important first-innings lead.
From there on, the result of the match was a foregone conclusion. Saurashtra batted out the 34 remaining overs of the match to reach 105/4 in their second essay. At stumps they were celebrating becoming the second first-time Ranji Trophy winner in 3 years (also Vidarbha 2017-18 and 2018-19).