Mumbai trounces Tamil Nadu while Vidarbha edges Madhya Pradesh to set up the final date: Ranji Trophy Semi-Final Roundup

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Mumbai dominated the Ranji Trophy semi-final sealing the result in three days

The domestic season in Indian cricket is about to reach its conclusion with Mumbai set to battle Vidharbha in an all-Maharasthra contest in the 2023-24 Ranji Trophy Final.

While Mumbai trounced the meek-looking Tamil Nadu in less than nine sessions, Vidarbha qualified for their third Ranji Trophy final with a 62-run win over Madhya Pradesh who put down the weapons in a hard-fought fourth-innings chase.

Mumbai vs Tami Nadu

At the MCA Shard Pawar Ground in the BKC region of Mumbai, R. Sai Kishore won the toss and decided to bat first on a green pitch with the wind blowing making the task easier for the Ajinkya Rahane-led Mumbai.

On the fourth ball of the innings, Shardul Thakur trapped Sai Sudharsan LBW on a duck as none of the other top-order batters could rescue the slide with Tamil Nadu going into Lunch on Day 1 at a score of 68/5.

Vijay Shankar’s fall at a score of 44 runs meant that the onus to score vital runs was transferred to Washington Sundar and the Indian international who mustered 43 runs from his blade before becoming the 10th victim of the Mumbai bowlers as Tamil Nadu folded for a score of 146 runs.

Kuldeep Sen dismissed Prithvi Shaw early in the innings and nightwatchman Mohit Avasthi walked out to bat when Bhupen Lalwani was trapped LBW as Mumbai was 45/2 at stumps on Day 1.

After Avasthi got stumped early on Day 2, Musheer Khan joined hands with skipper Rahane as the duo built a 43-run partnership before the Mumbai captain was dismissed by the opposition skipper Sai Kishore. Shreyas Iyer’s much-talked comeback talks were stifled as the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper got dismissed on 3 runs by Sandeep Warrier.

Musheer reached the 50-run mark to bring up the first half-century of the match before being stumped. Shams Mulani failed to disturb the scorers’ day-time nap leaving his side in a precarious position of 106/7 before Mumbai’s lower order once again rescued the ship., 

Shardul Thakur and Hardik Tamore built a solid 105-run partnership and took their side to a comfortable score of 211/8 when Tamore became Sai Kishore’s sixth victim of the match. But Thakur didn’t stop there and continued the onslaught alongside Tanush Kotian as the duo helped Mumbai salvage themselves and go into Tea on Day 2 at a score of 248/8. 

Thakur brought up his century with a maximum over the long-off region inside 89 balls laying down his gauntlet for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy scheduled in December-January. Sen finally got rid of Thakur almost instantly after being handed the new ball.

Kotian and Tushar Deshpande etched a record partnership in the quarter-final and the duo once again added 88 runs for the last wicket courtesy of an unbeaten 89-run innings from Kotian. Deshpande was dismissed by Sundar early on Day 3 ending Mumbai’s innings at a total of 378.

Thakur continued to have a great match as he dismissed Narayan Jagadeesan on a duck followed by the wicket of his opening partner Sudharsan. Washington’s promotion didn’t work wonders for Tamil Nadu as Avasthi got his wicket reeling the southern state at a score of 10/3.

Baba Indrajith and Pradosh Paul displayed resistance by etching their side’s highest partnership of the match before Paul was caught behind off Kotian’s bowling. Vijay Shankar laid down the marker by smashing a maximum off the second ball he faced followed by a half-century for Indrajith.

Avasthi dismissed Indrajith on a score of 70 runs and a last big partnership between Shankar and skipper Sai Kishore was ended by Kotian’s turning ball as the spinner undid the bails. After Tea, Tamil Nadu could only add 9 more runs losing four quick wickets to Mulani who went wicketless in the first innings.

After winning the semi-final by an innings and 70 runs, Mumbai would be participating in their 49th Ranji Trophy Final and the traditionally dominant side has won 42 of the previous 48 finals played in the coveted competition.

Vidarbha vs Madhya Pradesh

Playing at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, Vidarbha skipper Akshay Wadkar opted to bat first. Atharva Taide and Dhruv Shorey displayed attractive strokeplay as the opening pair put on 32 runs in six overs before Shorey’s stumps were undone by Avesh Khan.

After getting his eye in, Taide was the victim of a soft dismissal gifting his wicket to Venkatesh Iyer followed by Avesh dismissing Aman Mokhade courtesy of a brilliant catch by Iyer. The duo of Karun Nair and Yash Rathod were rebuilding the innings steadily before Venkatesh struck again to have Vidarbha in a precarious position at 101/4.

Skipper Wadkar walked out to bat next and his stay on the pitch was cut short by a diving catch from Yash Dubey. One batter after another kept walking back to the pavilion as Nair was left battling the Madhya Pradesh bowlers in solitude.

Nair reached the 50-run mark after he got a stable partner in Umesh Yadav at the other end and the duo stuck together till Tea as Vidarbha was completely on the back foot at 169/8. Kulwant Khejroliya castled Nair early in the third session and Umesh was dismissed in the very next over while attempting a wild slog as the hosts folded for a total of 170 runs.

Dubey started the Madhya Pradesh innings with a couple of boundaries against Umesh but the Gujarat Titans bowler took revenge by dismissing the opening batter in the 9th over. Himanshu Mantri and Harsh Gawli safely took their side to stumps on Day 1 at 47/1.

Yash Thakur trapped Gawli LBW on a score of 25 runs allowing skipper Shubham Sharma to come to the crease but the 30-year old was bowled by Umesh at a score of 1 run. Mantri brought up his half-century inside 123 balls while Iyer was dismissed without troubling the scorers as the Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder was trapped LBW by Thakur.

Sagar Solanki joined forces with Mantri as the duo added vital runs to MP’s score before and after Lunch as the duo added 52 runs for the fifth wicket. Due to a mix-up between the two batters, debutant Solanki had to walk back to the pavilion after being run out by Thakur.

The Madhya Pradesh batters put on a respectable score in their first innings

Saransh Jain came to the crease and opened his account with a huge maximum down the ground signifying his intentions. In the 71st over, Mantri reached the century milestone within 210 balls scoring his third century of the Ranji Trophy season helping his side take Tea at 191/5.

In the 78th over, Jain helped his side reach the 200-run mark with a boundary through the third-man region. Akshay Wakhare soon dismissed Jain followed by Mantri’s wicket in the 91st over ending the wicket-keeper batter’s innings at a score of 126 runs off 265 balls.

Anubhav Aggarwal, Avesh, Khejroliya, and Kumar Kartikeya added only 21 more runs after Mantri’s dismissal as the visitors folded for a total of 252 runs, taking a lead of 82 runs.

With only four overs left on Day 2, one would have expected Taide and Shorey to hold the fort but the southpaw was dismissed by Avesh on a score of 2 runs. Early on Day 3, Wakhare was dismissed by Anubhav forcing Mokhade and Shorey to rebuild the innings with a 73-run partnership before Shorey was caught behind off Kartikeya’s bowling.

Mokhade brought up his half-century while batting alongside Nair and the duo batted steadily taking Vidarbha to Lunch at a score of 137/3. On the first ball of the second session, Kartikeya trapped Mokhade LBW after contributing 59 runs off 100 balls. 

After a brief partnership with Rathod, Nair chopped the ball onto the stumps as Khejroliya celebrated in delight after dismissing the experienced batter for a score of 38 runs off 43 balls. A 158-run partnership between Rathod and skipper Wadkar turned the tables on MP as the hosts dominated Day 3 with both batters bringing up their respective half-centuries.

Wadkar was dismissed late in the third session courtesy of a reflex diving catch by substitute fielder SS Kushwah ending the skipper’s innings at a score of 77 runs off 139 balls. The hosts were the happier side walking off the ground with a score of 343/6.

The fans turned up early on Day 4 to witness Rathod’s century and the southpaw didn’t disappoint as he reached the milestone on the second ball of the day. Akshay Sarwate and Rathod added 34 runs to the overnight score before the former holed out in the deep.

Anubhav completed his 5-wicket haul with two consecutive wickets in the 98th over followed by Khejroliya ending Rathod’s innings at a score of 141 runs off 200 balls which included 18 boundaries and 2 maximums as Madhya Pradesh was set a target of 321 runs.

The 2021-22 Ranji Trophy champions started with aplomb as Mantri and Dubey started attacking the bowlers early on but it brought the downfall of Mantri who holed out in the deep. Gawli and Dubey then built a solid partnership taking MP to Lunch on Day 4 at 86/1.

Gawli reached the half-century milestone and was racing towards another landmark but Thakur cut short his innings at a score of 67 runs ending the 106-run partnership. In the 32nd over, Dubey brought up his half-century with two boundaries off Thakur’s over.

Wakhare dismissed Solanki shortly after bringing skipper Sharma to the crease once again and the captain’s stay on the 22-yard patch was short-lived yet again as Wakhare dismissed him on the brink of Tea break.

With four more sessions to play, MP had enough time but not enough batters to complete the run-chase as Iyer was dismissed by Wakhare with Nair completing a brilliant catch. Dubey tried to survive till the end of Day 4 but Aditya Sarwate brought the 2017-18 and the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy champions back into the driving seat.

With 94 runs required on the last day’s play was always going to be a monumental task with only 4 wickets in hand and MP’s lower order folded like a pack of cards in a windstorm as Vidarbha sealed the 62-run win to set up an interesting clash with Mumbai in the final.