The seventh and final round of the Ranji Trophy group stage concluded on Tuesday. A largely disappointing season for Tamil Nadu ended with a humiliating defeat to Baroda, whereas, neighbours Kerala created history by qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time in history. Mayank Agarwal continued his brilliant season with twin hundreds in Karnataka’s win against Railways. Anustup Majumdar accomplished the same in Bengal’s draw versus Goa.
These are this round’s talking points:
Tamil Nadu’s woeful season ends with a defeat
Tamil Nadu ended one of their worst seasons with a 102-run defeat to Baroda in Vadodara.
They drew all their five games before playing Baroda and got a first-innings lead only on two occasions. With only 11 points, a win was a must (albeit not enough) for them to enter the knockout stages.
Despite picking up early wickets after Baroda won the toss and elected to bat, Tamil Nadu couldn’t stop Swapnil Singh scoring a crucial 144, which helped his team score 309. Apart from the Baba brothers – Aparajith and Indrajith – none of the Tamil Nadu batsmen scored more than 40. They were all out for 274.
Tamil Nadu must have seen a glimmer of hope after bowling Baroda out for 197 in the second innings. But that was soon extinguished after Mumbai beat Tripura by 10 wickets and Madhya Pradesh’s seven-wicket win over Odisha on Monday. Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday, were bowled out for 130 in the second innings with five of their batters failing to score anything.
Kerala in the quarterfinals for the first time
For Tamil Nadu’s counterparts, Kerala, it’s been a season to remember so far.
Coached by Dav Whatmore and skippered ably by Sachin Baby, Kerala had four wins in five games and were favoured to beat Haryana away and enter the knockouts. And, that’s what they did. On the final day, Kerala picked up five wickets for 90 runs to win by an innings and finish below table-toppers Gujarat in Group B.
Sanju Samson with the bat (577 runs from six games) and Jalaj Saxena with the bat (482 runs from six games) and the ball (38 wickets) have been Kerala’s key performers. Sijomon Joseph (19 wickets in four games) and KC Akshay (13 wickets in 2 games) have supported Jalaj well.
Mayank Agarawal: 1000 runs and counting
Before the season began, Mayank Agarwal played 29 first-class games and scored just two hundreds. Starting well hasn’t been a problem for this Bengaluru-based batsman, who loves to attack. But the inability to make big scores consistently might have bothered him.
This season, however, he’s been unstoppable. Against an ordinary Railways bowling attack, he scored tons in both innings (173 and 134) that set up Karnataka’s 209-run win and helped the team top Group A. He also became the third batsman from Karnataka – after R Vijay Bharadwaj (1280 runs in 1998-99) and KL Rahul (1033 runs in 2013-14) – to make 1000 runs in a season.
“When he was not scoring runs, lot of people asked me to drop him. But I like his aggression and the brisk starts he gives at the top of the order,” Agarwal’s coach J. Arun Kumar told The Indian Express after the opener went past the 1000-run mark.
Prithvi Shaw’s 26-ball 50
It’s hard to keep young Prithvi Shaw out of the limelight. With Mumbai needing just 63 to win on the third day of play to book a quarterfinal berth, the 18-year-old prodigy, who has made 521 runs this season with three hundreds, made the second quickest fifty in a Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai in 26 balls.
Next day, Shaw, playing for India Red in the Under-19 Challenger Trophy, made another half century in 33 balls.
He’s just 55 runs away from reaching 1000 first-class runs and has five hundreds and three fifties.
Anustup’s twin tons
A draw with a first-innings lead against Goa was what Bengal needed to get to 23 points and book their quarterfinal berth. So, they would’ve hoped for their batsmen to come good. But being put into bat, they were three batsmen down with just 20 on the board and later 79/4.
Anustup Majumdar (119) and Shreevats Goswami (139) scored hundreds to help Bengal get to 379 and breathe easy.
Amogh Desai’s century for Goa reduced Bengal’s lead to 69. Then, the Goans priced out the first three Bengal wickets for 89. Anustup, once again, played a grinding knock (108 of 183) to bat Goa out of the contest.