Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Gurbani hat-trick, Jaffer fifty keep Vidarbha in hunt for lead

Vidarbha 206 for 4 (Fazal 67, Jaffer 61*) trail Delhi 295 (Shorey 145, Gurbani 6-59) by 89 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

When it looked like Delhi would ease past 300 early on the second day, Rajneesh Gurbani stalled them with a hat-trick. When it looked like the Vidarbha openers would stretch their partnership past 100, both fell within the space of four overs. And when it looked like Vidarbha would place themselves in a strong position for a lead after crossing 200 and only three down, they lost one more in the final moments of the second day to expose a weak middle order, making the match restore some parity yet again.

Vidarbha had dominated much of the day, finishing off Delhi's last four wickets for only five runs to wrap them up for 295. Faiz Fazal and Wasim Jaffer struck solid half-centuries to help them finish the day on 206 for 4. Jaffer was on 61 at stumps and would be their biggest hope to take a lead and avoid a collapse.

Resuming on their overnight 271 for 6, Dhruv Shorey was looking set with a patient Vikas Mishra, amid edges that weren't turning into wickets. Gurbani then targeted the stumps. On the last two deliveries of his seventh straight over of the day, he produced two incutters against Mishra and Navdeep Saini. Both deliveries nipped in so sharply from outside off that neither could get the bat down in time and were bowled. Gurbani completed the hat-trick in his next over with the most important wicket of the innings, bringing another one to knock over Shorey's off stump.

Four deliveries after he became only the second bowler to claim a hat-trick in a Ranji final - after Tamil Nadu's Kalyanasundram against Bombay in 1972-73 - he wrapped up Delhi when Kulwant Khejroliya charged and lost two of his stumps. Four bowled in seven deliveries and Gurbani finished with 6 for 59, his fifth five-for in four straight matches.

Vidarbha's openers put on a solid 96 runs after blunting the new ball in the first session. Saini was Delhi's best bowler of the day by consistently putting his 140kph deliveries in the right areas, posing threats in all three sessions. He did it against Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy but he hardly got support from the other end in the absence of Ishant Sharma and Vikas Tokas, who was replaced by Akash Sudan.

Barring the occasional edge or appeal, Fazal and Sanjay looked untroubled for the 30 overs they batted together. Fazal was more productive, middling three drives down the ground and steering plenty of short deliveries square. That he scored 29 off 33 against Saini helped Vidarbha in taming the fired-up bowler. Left-arm spinner Mishra's flat deliveries could not penetrate his defences and Fazal tucked him to long leg for four to complete his first half-century that was not converted into one of his five hundreds this season.

Sudan somehow returned in a different avatar in his second spell when the ball was over 25 overs old. He first brought one into Sanjay for an lbw appeal in the 28th over - that the batsman survived - before seaming one in marginally to have Sanjay chop on for 31. Four overs later, he swung one away from Fazal and the left-hander edged behind for 67.

Still 188 adrift, Vidarbha had the man in the middle they needed - Jaffer. He steered two partnerships - with Ganesh Satish and Apoorv Wankhade - during which he was as unruffled as ever in his ninth Ranji final. Those two partnerships were not blemish-free on the bowler-friendly pitch. Saini was brought back soon after Fazal's dismissal and he created two chances against Satish before tea - first an edge fell short of the slips and then the umpire turned down a a loud lbw appeal because it was probably going down leg.

Jaffer meanwhile dropped reminders of his calmness. He drove the second ball after tea serenely through the covers. But Saini tasted success in the next over by pinning Satish above the knee roll, which made the batsman unhappy with the decision. Jaffer continued to late cut - his most productive shot - and punch balls off the backfoot to register his 86th first-class half-century. Wankhade also exhibited two elegant cover drives against the pacers, with Vidarbha appearing like they wouldn't lose further wickets on the day.

However, left-arm pacer Khejroliya titled the balance a bit towards Delhi in the third over before stumps when he angled one away and Wankhade poked for an edge on 28. Saini scared Vidarbha before stumps too by making Jaffer edge one that fell short of slip and appealing for a catch down the leg side four balls later, when the ball had gone off the pad.

Delhi are 13 overs away from the new ball and Vidarbha 89 runs short with the key in Jaffer's hands.