Parthiv decimates Mumbai’s might to take Gujarat to maiden Ranji Title

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Gujarat won the title for the first time.

The contrast couldn’t have been starker. On one side, Mumbai, the defending champions, had been battered and batted out of the contest. Having made it a habit of winning Ranji Trophy titles, the players, who for generations knew only what it feels to lift the title, stood in a group contemplating what they could have done differently.
And then there was Gujarat. Players and support staff running onto the field with child-like enthusiasm. Parthiv Patel (143) and Manprit Juneja (54) helped their side chase down 312, the highest successful chase in the final, to win the 2016-17 edition by five wickets at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on Saturday (January 14).
The last time Gujarat played the final, in 1950-51, they lost to Holkar in Indore. Parthiv and his lads returned to the city to set the record straight and win their maiden title and etch their names in history having battled expectations, situations and a lot more.
Mumbai, then Bombay, last lost a final in 1991 when Haryana edged past them by two runs. Time and again, they’ve proved their mettle, winning every single title since then whenever they reached the final, to stretch their tally to 41. The 42nd title, though, will have to wait.
Gujarat played with plenty of flair, there was panache in their approach, a dismissive nature even when they were down on the mat, and more importantly with some luck to clinch the prestigious title since the class of Pheroze Naoraoji Cambhatta and Polly Umrigar came close but missed.
Needing 265 on the final day, the question wasn’t if Gujarat will sprint past the line or crawl past it. The question was if they can keep standing and sustain the inevitable blows that was going to come their way. As things turned out, Parthiv led from the front and brushed aside the Mumbai challenge to help them cruise past the finish line.
Things weren’t as rosy as they seem at the beginning. Mumbai nosed ahead in the day by picking up three wickets in the first session. Gujarat did manage to score 99 in the session but also gave the defending champions an opening they desperately needed to stay afloat.
Priyank Panchal, who ended the season with 1310 runs, fell in the second over trying to chase a wide one from Balwinder Sandhu even before the team could add a run to their overnight score. All he was able to do was edge it to Suryakumar Yadav at second slip. Mumbai had struck five minutes into the day. Samit Gohil and Bhargav Merai too followed soon after leaving Gujarat in the middle of wobble at 89 for 3.
That’s when the crucial stand between Parthiv and Juneja began. Propped up by constant sledges by their opponents, Juneja decided to take the aggressive route.He made his intent clear with two consecutive boundaries off Sandhu in the 31st over. While the first one was driven past the bowler, he stood tall on the next one and punched it through covers. Parthiv, all this while, had a fair share of luck. More than flowing drives, all he managed was inside edges past the stumps. While it certainly managed to frustrate the opposition, he did well not to get affected by that.
As the drives and pushes and the prods flowed, Mumbai continued to get restless. In the 52nd overs, Aditya Tare, the Mumbai captain, looked up, said a small prayer and then threw his hands down in frustration. That was the first instance of the goose pretty much being cooked.
Such was the might of the partnership that Mumbai’s much talked about temperament, the big match temperament, started to crumble. The second instance came when Tare, after Juneja was dismissed, gave the batsman a mouthful to let the right-hander know about his thoughts.
The Juneja-Parthiv collaboration had yielded Gujarat 116 by then. Juneja was caught behind trying to sweep Akhil Herwadkar. Gujarat were 205 for 4 then and still 107 adrift.
It was crucial for Parthiv to take the innings forwards. Propped up by Mumbai’s aggressive approach, and perhaps frustrated that the opponents were more than keen on letting off some heat, he raced to 98 with two consecutive boundaries. He got to the three-figure mark with an inside edge past the stumps.
Rujul Bhatt, Parthiv’s partner, survived quite a few chances. Surya, at first slip, dropped him twice off the bowling of Herwadkar. Amidst the winter chills, it was Mumbai who were feeling the heat. Things didn’t help when the captain dropped a straight forward chance, trying to celebrate the catch, and the ball rolled over to his helmet to hand Gujarat five bonus runs.
As the tension mounted on both teams, Parthiv was a picture of calm. Absorbing pressure like a tissue paper in ink; talking, provoking and guiding his partner through the chase. Bhatt pushed and poked but managed to survive before Chirag Gandhi cracked two consecutive boundaries to hammer their opponents down.
Interestingly, on this day in 2009, Mumbai defeated Karnataka by seven runs in Mysore to win the title and play one of the most memorable clashes in the tournament’s history. Today, they were decimated, left bruised and disappointed by the talking blade of Parthiv.
Brief scores: Mumbai 228 (Prithvi Shaw 71; Rujul Bhatt 2-5) and 411 (Abhishek Nayar 91; Chintan Gaja 6-121) lost to Gujarat 328 (Parthiv Patel 90; Shardul Thakur 4-84) and 313/5 (Parthiv Patel 143) by five wickets.

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