Splendid batting by Fazal, Chatterjee, Binny, Jackson and man of the match Karun Nair ensures...
"The Irani Cup match is quite open." Former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar was right in his analysis at the end of the penultimate day on Wednesday when Rest of India were 100 for one in pursuit of the 480-run target set by Mumbai.
The Rest of India team with the Irani Cup at the Brabourne Stadium. Pics/Suresh Karkera
Vengsarkar was at the CK Nayudu Hall where the Mumbai under-23 was being felicitated. The Rest of India players would have appreciated Vengsarkar's indirect confidence in their ability, but they were not at the function.
Riding on Faiz Fazal's century and Karun Nair's 92, Rest stunned the Ranji champions to clinch the Irani Cup by four wickets. It was the third highest chase in first-class cricket in India and the most successful chase in the 56-year-old history of the annual match. As for Mumbai, their Irani Cup jinx got extended to 18 years.
Rest of India opener Faiz Fazal drives en route his 127 vs Mumbai at Brabourne Stadium
Fazal became the only batsman from Vidarbha to score a century in the Irani Cup. That he did it in the second innings to help his side win, was the icing on the cake. Unbeaten on 41 overnight, Wednesday, didn't miss out on opportunities to take his singles and twos. He reached his 11th first-class century in the fourth over after lunch.
He enjoyed some good fortune — dropped at forward short leg off Siddhesh Lad, the part-time off-spinner — before Shreyas Iyer put one down at short cover off pacer Dhawal Kulkarni.
Sudip Chatterjee, Rest of India's one-drop batsman, lofts one during the course of his 54. Inset: Stuart Binny
With Sudip Chatterjee (54), Fazal put on 110 for the second wicket followed by a 130-run stand with Karun Nair (92) for the third wicket.
"We were communicating really well. We were nervous, but kept telling each other to be calm, stay till the end and let see what happens from there," Fazal said about his partnership with Nair.
Man of the match Karun Nair (Rest of India) square drives for his second 90-plus score. Inset: Sheldon Jackson
Nair, who missed century in the first innings by four runs, missed a ton again; this time by eight runs. However, his attacking 92 in just 132 balls with the help of seven boundaries helped ROI to reach closer to the target.
The last hour was crucial with Rest requiring 62 runs in 15 overs. In Stuart Binny and Sheldon Jackson, Rest had the right men for the job. Binny smashed 54 in 51 deliveries with three fours and two huge sixes. That 92-run partnership gave Mumbai the jitters.
Jayant Yadav, who gave a good account of himself with his off-spinners, stayed unbeaten with 19 and watched in glee as Jackson came down the track to loft Iqbal Abdulla over the mid-off fielder for a boundary. A near-impossible task at the start of the day was made possible by some clinical batting from the Rest and some poor bowling and fielding by Mumbai.
Mumbai 603 & 182 (S Lad 60, S Yadav 49; J Yadav 4-93) lost to ROI 306 & 482-6 (F Fazal 127, K Nair 92, S Jackson 59*; I Abdulla 5-154) by 4 wickets
Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare used nine bowlers in his quest to deny Rest of India the Irani Cup, but in vain.
Only one bowler managed to do some damage — left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla who claimed five for 154 in his 42.4 overs.
"Unfortunately, we didn't have a regular (spin) bowler apart from Iqbal Abdulla. We could have bowled much better. We've always been relying on medium pacers through the season. We were hoping that (off-spinner) Jay Bista bowls well, but he could not utilise the pitch conditions and that is where we failed," said Chandrakant Pandit.
Interestingly, the skipper didn't turn to part-time off-spinner Akhil Herwadkar, who claimed three wickets in the first innings against Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final last month. Bista claimed two wickets in the first innings but he went wicketless in the second in which he gave 98 runs.