The Royals carried their form into the quarter-finals, helping their teams qualify for the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy.
The stakes are always high during any knockout matches in any sport. The fact that it happens to be the world’s most competitive and prestigious first class cricket tournament, the pressure is on the teams to emerge as the best in India. After nearly 3 months of battling it out in the group stages, all the Royals who made it to the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy made their mark for their respective state teams in one way or the other.
Jaydev Unadkat – 7/120 vs Uttar Pradesh
Claiming his third five-plus wicket haul of this season, Jaydev Unadkat wasted no time in Saurashtra’s clash against Uttar Pradesh. In his second and third overs, he dismissed one of the openers and the number 3 on ducks. After a strong recovery by UP, he returned to wipe out the tail, ensuring the opponents did not post 400. In the second innings, the Saurashtra skipper led from the front with two scalps, returning with match figures of 7/120. Having been set a target of 372, Unadkat and his boys created history and chased down a Ranji Trophy record for the highest chase by getting to the target, winning the match by 6 wickets and booking Saurashtra’s spot in the semi-finals.
Gowtham & Shreyas Gopal – 12 wickets together vs Rajasthan
The all-rounder pairing of Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal is making it a habit to perform together, and form a threatening duo when bowling in tandem. In the first innings, Gowtham claimed 3, and Gopal, 2 wickets, keeping Rajasthan’s total in check. After Karnataka acquired a slender lead of just 39 runs, the duo got back into action. Gowtham picked up a 4-fer, while Gopal bagged a 3-fer. Their efforts restricted Rajasthan, setting up a target of a mere 184 runs, which Karnataka chased down with six wickets to spare.
Sanju Samson’s Bravery vs Gujarat
If cricket matches were to give out bravery awards, Sanju Samson would have definitely pocketed one for his courageous display in Kerala’s second innings. Samson had retired hurt in the first innings on 17, when he got hit on his ring finger. Scans revealed a fracture, and he was all but ruled out to bat in their second innings. With a set batsman, Jalaj Saxena at the crease, and the ninth wicket falling, Samson decided to pull off a Graeme Smith-esque show, as he walked out to the centre. The pair put on 8 valuable runs in a low-scoring knock-out game where the highest total was 185. Kerala went on to qualify for their first Ranji Trophy semi-final, beating Gujarat comfortably by 113 runs. We wish our very own Sanju a speedy recovery.
Mahipal Lomror: 50 vs Karnataka
Rajasthan proved to be a stiff opponent for the mighty Karnataka side, but were eventually worn down by the Ranji giants. Their skipper, Mahipal Lomror got starts in both innings for his side. In the first, he scored a watchful 50, followed by a relatively brisk 42 in the second. Unfortunately, he lost his wicket to fellow Royals team-mate, Krishnappa Gowtham on both occasions. Gowtham has perhaps won some bragging rights against Lomror, for when the two meet during the Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL) season in a couple of months.
With players putting their bodies on the line and going all-out to win games for their state teams, the bar will definitely rise in the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy where 4 Royals will be in action. Kerala will play Vidarbha while Karnataka meet Saurashtra in the two semi-final clashes on 24th January.