Madhya Pradesh 341 (Mantri 165, Raghuwanshi 63, Mukesh 4-66) and 281 (Shrivastava 82, Patidar 79, Shahbaz 5-79, Pramanik 4-65) beat Bengal 273 (Shahbaz 116, Tiwary 102, Kartikeya 3-61) and 175 (Easwaran 78, Kartikeya 5-67) by 174 runs
Twenty-three years after their Ranji Trophy dream went up in smoke, Madhya Pradesh will fight for the title at the same venue of their heartbreak – the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Standing in their way will be Mumbai, the 41-time champions, who will be in their first final since 2016-17.
Incidentally Chandrakant Pandit
, who was Mumbai coach then when they lost to Gujarat
, is now with MP. Having masterminded titles with Mumbai and more-recently with Vidarbha for two seasons back-to-back, he’ll have a chance to do with MP as coach what he couldn’t as a captain all those years ago, when Karnataka beat them
to lift the trophy.
Pandit and Mumbai’s current coach Amol Muzumdar
, both students of legendary coach late Ramakant Achrekar, will shepherd their teams in what promises to be a riveting battle of the khadoos come June 22.
That MP find themselves in the final is thanks in no small part to left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya
. After picking six second-innings wickets against Punjab
to bowl MP into the semi-finals last week, he picked up five second-innings wickets against Bengal to bowl MP into the final. The victory margin of 174 runs reflected MP’s superior batting.
They set the game up in the first innings to make 341 from 97 for 4, thanks to Himanshu Mantri
‘s 165 and his century stand with 18-year-old Akshat Raghuwanshi. Bengal brought the game back on an even keel from 54 for 5 thanks to centuries from a hobbling Manoj Tiwary and Shahbaz Ahmed
. The pair whittled down Bengal’s deficit to 68, but MP’s batters built on slowly, brick by brick, courtesy Rajat Patidar (79) and Aditya Shrivastava (82) to set up a target of 350.
Bengal resumed a delayed final day needing 254 with six wickets standing after the cream of their top order was dismantled late on the fourth evening. Barring Sudip Gharami, out to a poor lbw call trying to reverse sweep, the rest of the batting caved in against spin.
, the captain, batted through to make a battling 78. But when he became the sixth wicket to fall to a Kartikeya grubber that scooted low to beat his under edge and crash into the stumps, the end wasn’t far.
Victory was achieved in the 66th over when seamer Gaurav Yadav bowled Mukesh Kumar to pick up his third wicket of the innings. Bengal had been shot out for 175, with Shahbaz strangely unbeaten on an 82-ball 22, at no stage looking to take the aggressive route despite wickets falling at the other end.
Bengal decided to strengthen their batting by playing an extra allrounder in this game, thereby keeping out Ishan Porel. The move spectacularly backfired with Sayan Mondal, the man given a look-in, managing scores of 0 and 1 in two innings. Having gone wicketless in 14 overs in the first innings, he bowled all of two in the second.
It ends a disappointing season for Bengal, where they showed flashes of brilliance, like in their opening game where they scripted their highest-ever run chase
after being shot out for 88 in the first innings by Baroda. MP, meanwhile, have bossed their way through in the quarters and now semis, to set themselves up for the grand finale