Vidarbha 185 (Sarwate 47, Mithun 5-45) and 313 (Satish 81, Vinay 3-71, Binny 3-74) beat Karnataka 301 (Nair 153, Gautam 73, Gurbani 5-94, Umesh 4-73) and 192 (Vinay 36, Gurbani 7-68) by five runs
One of the most dramatic and emotionally-charged Ranji Trophy matches in recent memory hurtled to a pulsating finish in Kolkata as Vidarbha charged into their maiden tournament final with a five-run victory over season favourites and eight-time champions Karnataka.
Passionate, exhilarating and unpredictable until the very end, this match had all the ingredients that go into the making of a classic. Rajneesh Gurbani picked the ultimate stage to turn in the performance of his life - a career-best seven-for - as Karnataka folded for 192 in their second innings, ending what turned out to be the match of the season.
Karnataka dominated almost every moment of the 75 minutes that the final day lasted. Shreyas Gopal (24*), Vinay Kumar (36) and Abhimanyu Mithun (33) mounted a sensational fightback as Karnataka's experience in big-match situations prominently came through. Almost every run was shaved off the target in clinical manner as Vidarbha watched their dream slip away. All until one critical moment of madness dashed Karnataka's hopes and subjected them to heartbreak.
Mithun, who had dented Vidarbha the worst of all Karnataka batsmen, paid the ultimate price for his lofty ambition. With his team nine runs away, and with Vidarbha having nearly lost all hope, Mithun gave them a spark in his pursuit of a glorious finish. Gurbani pitched it full outside Mithun's off stump and the batsmen threw his hands at it as hard as he could, and sliced a catch to Akshay Sarwate at deep point.
It brought out S Aravind, Karnataka's weakest batsman and Vidarbha's strongest hope. Aravind managed to see off four deliveries. And then Karnataka suffered their second brain-fade of the morning. Off Umesh Yadav's last delivery, Aravind flicked the bowler to fine leg. Shreyas Gopal, without a moment's hesitation, crossed over for the single.
Six runs required and six balls to bowl at No.11 Aravind. It was Vidarbha's last chance, and Faiz Fazal turned to his young hero, Gurbani. One ball later, it was all over. Gurbani shaped the first ball away from Aravind. The batsman reached out, and the resultant edge was snaffled at gully. Gurbani elatedly sank to his knees, Vidarbha's players roared out from their dressing room, and Shreyas and Aravind were disconsolate figures as they wearily and reluctantly dragged themselves off.
That Karnataka took it so close was partly down to Vidarbha's own undoing. Having fought brilliantly for four days, Vidarbha suffered a drop in performance at the last, and most crucial stage. They began positively, often finding the edges of Karnataka's batsmen. It gave Karnataka the first four of the morning, when Vinay edged between second slip and gully. But gradually, the effectiveness and discipline of the past four days made way for a generous offering of boundary balls as Karnataka progressed imperiously.
It forced Gurbani into experimentation as he switched angles four times in the 48th over. In his next over, Vinay drove Gurbani furiously over mid-off before slamming a pull in front of square next ball. Gurbani then slanted one down the leg side to concede four byes and make it 12 for the over. Adrenaline then got the better of Vinay, as he edged an expansive back-foot punch to the keeper to give Gurbani his 10th wicket of the match.
Mithun survived on 1, when, having taken off for a single with a push to mid-off, he was sent back from halfway down the pitch, but Akshay Wadkar failed to collect the ball. A flurry of boundaries then gave Karnataka the firm advantage.
Umesh Yadav continued to be horribly erratic, bowling short and failing to attack the stumps. He didn't attempt even one yorker against the Karnataka tail. Mithun put him away for a brace for boundaries through midwicket and covers.
Mithun unsettled Vidarbha by constantly shuffling around the crease and manipulated them to bowl at his arc. Back-to-back fours off Sarwate brought the equation down to under 20 as Karnataka found a lot more zing in their shots and Vidarbha's fielders sulked at their respective positions. At the drinks break, Karnataka were 180 for 8 and 18 runs away. Nineteen deliveries later, Vidarbha had changed the course of their history.