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Ranji final: Jaydev and Pujara's advice helped us, says Hardik Rathod

Mumbai's Ranji Trophy final oppenent Saurashtra still in the game after disciplined bowling performance in post-tea session on Day 2

Pune: There were a couple of smart strategic decisions by Saurashtra that have kept them in the game against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy final at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.

Saurashtra's Prerak Mankad en route his 66 against Mumbai at Pune's MCA Stadium yesterday. Pic/Mandar Tannu
Saurashtra's Prerak Mankad en route his 66 against Mumbai at Pune's MCA Stadium yesterday. Pic/Mandar Tannu

First, to bat aggressively with just two wickets in hand in yesterday’s morning session. The second one came after the tea break on Day Two and that was to bowl a more disciplined line to keep the Mumbai runs down.

The first decision paid dividends with Saurashtra adding 43 runs in 8.4 overs in the morning, taking their total to 235. The strategy was evident with Jaydev Unadkat smashing Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur for two sixes and one four in the fourth over of the day. Unadkat was the last Saurashtra wicket to fall, having scored 31 off 26 balls.

"We had to play aggressive cricket because we wanted to get some more runs with just two wickets in hand," said Prerak Mankad, the debutant who was unbeaten at stumps on Day One. Mankad (66) and Unadkat added 43 runs in 47 balls for the ninth wicket that helped Saurashtra go past 230-run mark.

Big impact
The second strategy was more crucial and had a bigger impact in the match scenario, especially from Saurashtra’s point of view. With Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav adding 152 runs for the third wicket in 35.4 overs, the Saurashtra bowlers looked a bit out of sorts. They got rid of Iyer in the penultimate over before tea, but Mumbai were still on top.

"We were trying too hard in the morning, as we wanted to make the most of the new ball and morning conditions. In doing that, we ended up missing our length. At times, we bowled too full or too short," admitted Saurashtra left-arm pacer Hardik Rathod.

The Saurashtra team was seen in a huddle just before the start of play in the post-tea session. "Our captain Jaydev Shah and Cheteshwar Pujara told us to bowl with more discipline. They asked us to build pressure by drying the runs,"

Rathod added. And that’s exactly what the Saurashtra bowlers did. After tea, the Saurashtra bowlers reduced Mumbai to 250 for 8 in the next 20.4 overs — five wickets for 66 runs in 20.4 overs, at a run-rate of 3.23. The likes of Chirag Jani, Deepak Punia and Rathod bowled a lot more good length balls and were rewarded.

With Mumbai ahead by 27 runs with two wickets in hand, Saurashtra are right back in the game. If only Arpit Vasavada had caught Iyer on 37, things could have been even more positive for Jaydev Shah’s boys.

Impressive debut
Mankad played a fighting knock of 66 and his partnership of 84 with Vasavada made a big difference to Saurashtra’s total. It’s not easy to handle the pressure of a Ranji final on debut, but Mankad handled it with efficiency.

"There was definitely pressure. But when I walked in to bat, I had Vasavada at the other end. He has been my district captain and his presence at the other end made me feel comfortable," Mankad said. Coming in at 108 for 7, Mankad had the responsibility of keeping the already well-settled Vasavada company.

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