Saurashtra were on top after the opening day’s play of the Ranji Trophy final as Vidarbha were reduced to 200 for seven in Nagpur on Sunday.
Skipper Jaydev Unadkat removed run-machine Wasim Jaffer as it proved to be a good toss to lose for Saurashtra, who succeeded in removing the most impactful Vidarbha batsmen – Jaffer (23) and captain Faiz Faizal (16) – cheaply.
Saurashtra bowlers, especially Unadkat (2/20) and his pace colleague Chetan Sakariya (1/13), kept the rival batsmen on a tight leash. Unadkat was consistently accurate with his nagging line and length while Sakariya swung the ball and troubled the batsmen with movement.
The defending champions struggled to create partnerships and had it not been for the 57-run seventh-wicket stand between Akshay Wadkar and Akshay Karnewar, they were looking at a first-innings total of less than 200.
The batsmen were too circumspect, save Ganesh Satish and Wadkar, who went for their shots in their small yet crucial innings. Mohit Kale, who scored 35, too got a start but did not build on that.
Batting at number eight, Karnewar produced some lusty hits in a sensible knock in the final session.
Saurashtra will fancy their chances from here on, having finished runners-up twice in the last seven seasons. Sakariya got only one wicket but was easily the best bowler of the day. In 14 testing overs he bowled, the diminutive pacer conceded just 13 runs.
Prerak Mankad, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, and Kamlesh Makwana took one wicket apiece. However, all the action unfolded before empty stands despite it being a Sunday, with a handful of school students cheering for the home side, often teasing the fielders in the deep.
Left-arm pacer Sakariya got the ball to swing early on, troubling R Sanjay while Unadkat asked a few questions to his counterpart Fazal with some swing and bounce.
Sakariya was rewarded when Sanjay went for a lazy drive and just managed an edge, which was taken by Arpit Vasavada in first slip.
Fazal too went back soon, though, in a bizarre dismissal. He rather gifted his wicket by slowing down a few steps away from the crease, thinking the throw from the deep is going towards the other end.
Jaffer was mostly defensive and his array of strokes was nowhere to be seen, maybe because of the two wickets that fell. With Kale, he just sought to steady the innings, playing in ‘V’ zone, just driving and pushing the ball safely.
For Vidarbha, Satish batted with a lot of positive intent. He drove the ball when it was pitched up and did not mind going for cuts behind the square on back-foot. He also used his feet against spinners, playing a crucial role in keeping the Vidarbha innings together.
Wicketkeeper Wadkar, who had scored 98 against Uttarakhand in the quarterfinal at this venue, offered resistance as the hosts took tea at 130 for four.
Mankad got rid of Satish while Jadeja did not let Aditya Sarwate open his account in the final session.
Sakariya ended the resistance from Wadkar and Karnewar by removing the former, three overs before stumps.