Rest of India rout Rajasthan to win Irani Cup


Harmeet Singh cleaned up the tail with four wickets to hand Rest of India victory by an innings and 79 runs. © Getty Images

Rajasthan were bowled out for 275 in the final session on the fourth day of the Irani Cup at the Chinnaswamy stadium, handing Rest of India (RoI) victory by an innings and 79 runs, their 23rd outright win in 51 editions. There was no miraculous Rajasthan fightback, but on a day of run-outs, they could blame their communication skills for having failed to take the game into the final day.

The pitch stayed true for the majority of the day, except for a few Pragyan Ojha deliveries that turned sharply or at times kept low, and Vineet Saxena and Hrishikesh Kanitkar were in the zone right from the first ball. They tackled Ishant Sharma, who bowled a steady line to start the day from the pavilion end, and Umesh Yadav with ease and looked intent on making use of the conditions to rack up personal milestones.

Running between the wickets was the lone area the pair looked vulnerable in and eventually it cost them. Once they fell, the RoI bowlers needed just over a session to wrap things up and earn a day’s rest.

Saxena, who has the third-longest innings in first-class cricket in terms of time –he batted for 907 minutes in last season’s Ranji trophy final against Tamil Nadu –, was first to go after a 66-run partnership. After playing Ojha to square leg on the back foot, he ran. Kanitkar was late to respond to the call and before he could alert Saxena, Ishant dived in to throw the ball to Dinesh Karthik, the wicketkeeper.

Kanitkar, who flicked and straight-drove Yadav for consecutive boundaries to start the day, looked comfortable and solid throughout his 204-minute stay in the centre, except for an inswinger from Stuart Binny that took the inside edge and a delivery from Ojha that took the outside edge. Most of his strokes were straight out of the textbook, with feet firmly in place and head steady in the line of the ball. He brought up his 44th first-class fifty with a single to cover off Ishant, as he and Robin Bist put up 95 runs in just 107 minutes.

Just when the partnership seemed to have steadied the nerves in the dressing room, another piece of reckless running between the wickets curtailed Kanitkar’s progress. He jabbed a delivery to cover, but in an attempt to steal a run failed to beat the underarm throw from Badrinath. He made 73, including ten fours.

Badrinath had earlier dropped Bist off Ojha’s bowling at first slip when he had made 43, off the last ball before lunch. Bist went on to make 65, and his full-arched flick off Yadav was easily the shot of the day. But when played for the turn against Ojha, the ball went with the arm to unsettle the stumps.

After his dismissal, the focus shifted to whether Rajasthan could avoid an innings defeat. The plan to have Rashmi Ranjan Parida play spin from one end, and to let Dishant Yagnik negotiate the seamers from the other seemed to work briefly, before a third run-out scuttled the revival. Off the last ball of a Binny over, the pair in their attempt to take a third run failed to beat a strong one-bounce throw from Yadav on the cover fence. After Yagnik left, Parida, who made 31, became Harmeet Singh’s first victim when he edged one to Karthik. After that, Harmeet picked up another three more to seal victory.

Aniket Choudhary, reprieved before tea as Harmeet overstepped, fell for the flight just after the interval, with Yadav taking an excellent running catch on the long-on fence. After the second new ball was taken, Yadav took a similar catch off Harmeet’s bowling to bring an end to the first fixture of the 2012-13 Indian domestic season.

Brief scores: Rajasthan 253 (Robin Bist 117 not out; Umesh Yadav 5-55) and 275 (Hrishikesh Kanitkar 73, Robin Bist 67; Harmeet Singh 4-45) lost to Rest of India 607/7 decl (M Vijay 266, Ajinkya Rahane 81, Cheteshwar Pujara 78, Dinesh Karthik 56, S Badrinath 55; Madhur Khatri 3-125) by an innings and 79 runs.


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