Srikar Bharat became the first Andhra batsman to score a triple-century, and they qualified for the knockouts for the first time since 2001-02. © Wisden India

Srikar Bharat became the first Andhra batsman to score a triple-century, and they qualified for the knockouts for the first time since 2001-02. © Wisden India

In a gripping final round of the Ranji Trophy 2014-15 league matches, which concluded on Monday (February 9), eight teams secured wins, taking the season’s tally of outright results to 52 in 108 games. Karnataka, Delhi, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Vidarbha, Andhra and Mumbai qualified for the knockouts at the end of everything, but there were other highlights as well.

Bharat charters new territory

Srikar Bharat, who became the first Andhra batsman to score a triple century, helped Andhra beat Goa and qualify for the knockouts for the first time since 2000-01. Bharat’s 308 took him past Amit Pathak’s 264, the highest score by an Andhra batsman, which had also come against the same opponents in November 2000. During the course of his innings, Bharat added 333 runs with MUB Sriram, making it Andhra’s best second-wicket partnership in the tournament.

Vihari adds to the Gymkhana lore

Hanuma Vihari celebrated the return of first-class cricket to the Gymkhana grounds after four seasons by becoming only the fifth Hyderabad player to register a three-figure knock on his captaincy debut. Vihari’s 263, which put him in a group that earlier had Eddie Aibara (1947), Mohammad Azharuddin (1988), VVS Laxman (2000) and Akshath Reddy (2012), was critical in Himachal Pradesh not qualifying for the knockouts for the second time in a row despite being in a strong position for the majority of the season on both occasions.

Ojha comes back

Having reworked his bowling action, Pragyan Ojha was cleared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and returned to the Hyderabad side after a gap of six weeks. He made an immediate impression with three wickets in one over, and finished with figures of 4 for 159 in the only innings he bowled in.

More from Gymkhana

In the same game, Rashmi Ranjan Parida played his 126th Ranji Trophy game and passed Sanjay Bangar to become the second most capped cricketer in the tournament’s history behind Amol Muzumdar’s 136 appearances, Bipul Sharma registered his highest first-class score (176), Paras Dogra became the first batsman to score four centuries this season, and Rishi Dhawan became the first bowler to touch the 40-wicket mark.

Mayhem in Ahmedabad

As many as 26 wickets fell on the first day of Gujarat’s home game against Haryana at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad. The first and only time more wickets had fallen in a Ranji game was in the inaugural match between Madras and Mysore in November 1934. On that occasion, AG Ram Singh picked up 11 of the 30 wickets to fall as Madras beat Mysore by an innings within a day’s play.

Vidarbha pip Gujarat

Gujarat beat Haryana by nine wickets, but missing out on a bonus point tied them with Vidarbha on 24 points. And, even though Vidarbha lost to Maharashtra, they pipped Gujarat because of a better quotient of 0.503.

Stranded on 99

Chirag Jani became the first player from Saurashtra to be stranded on 99 in first-class cricket in the game against Odisha. Only on 12 occasions has such an instance been recorded in Ranji Trophy history, and Himachal Pradesh’s Rajiv Nayyar is the unfortunate batsman to have recorded it twice.

Mohanty joins elite Odisha club

Basant Mohanty used his batting skills for a change in Odisha’s nailbiting two-wicket win over Saurashtra and helped his team avoid relegation, but, before that, he had returned seven scalps for the match. The haul helped him become the third Odisha bowler after Debasis Mohanty and Sanjay Satpathy to pick up 200 or more wickets.

Kerala effect in Tamil Nadu’s strike force

Prasanth Parameswaran, a regular in the Kerala team till last year, moved over to Tamil Nadu this season, and in his first game for the new team, picked up five wickets with his left-arm seam in a win over Baroda that took them into the quarterfinals.

Pinal Shah touches 40

M Vijay’s unbeaten 104 in the chase meant that Baroda failed to book a quarterfinal berth, but Pinal Shah took three catches behind the stumps and extended his season’s tally to 40. The closest he had come prior to his was the 2010-11 when he had effected 39 dismissals and Baroda had finished runners-up.

Gautam’s second coming

Shiv Gautam, Jharkhand’s preferred wicketkeeper till recently, was ignored for the first half of the season, and returned as a pure batsman in the previous round. He celebrated the comeback with his maiden century (150) in a nine-wicket win against Services.

Pack-up time for Punjab

Having made it to the semifinals for two consecutive seasons, Punjab crashed out of the quarterfinal race this time. After losing to Odisha, they were bundled out for 88 by Delhi in their second innings. Interestingly, last season too, Delhi had dismissed them for 74, but Punjab had fought back to win on that occasion and revive their campaign.

Déjà vu with a difference for Lahiri

Saurasish Lahiri and Wriddhiman Saha blunted out 53.5 overs for an eighth-wicket stand of 90 runs to not only help Bengal avoid demotion, but also end Madhya Pradesh’s quarterfinal aspirations. Lahiri, who remained unbeaten for 229 minutes, had reaped ten wickets against Tamil Nadu in the last-round match in 2013-14 for a crucial four-run win, which took Bengal into the knockouts.

Another Saif in the circuit

Mohammad Saif, Mohammad Kaif’s elder brother, last represented Uttar Pradesh in April 2006. In the current round, another player by the same name turned up for the same team. Just 18 years old, the new Saif marked his debut with a knock of 86 in Uttar Pradesh’s victory over Railways that helped saved them a downgrade.

List of debutants

Samar Dubhashi and Snehal Kauthankar (Goa), Vishnu Solanki (Baroda), Himalay Agarwal and J Anshul (Hyderabad), Salman Nizar (Kerala), Ankit Kushwah (Madhya Pradesh), Abhishek Das (Bengal), Shishir Bhavane (Karnataka), Snell Patel (Saurashtra), Himanshu Chawla (Punjab), Shivam Chaudhary and Mohammad Saif (Uttar Pradesh) took the season’s debutants’ tally to 92.

At the end of the group stage:

Highest run-getter: Sheldon Jackson (Saurashtra) – 819 from 8 matches
Highest wicket-taker: Rishi Dhawan (Himachal Pradesh) – 40 from 8 matches
Highest individual score: 337 – KL Rahul for Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh
Best bowling figures in an innings: 8/29 – Swarupam Purkayastha for Assam v Hyderabad
Best bowling figures in a match: 13/88 – Swarupam Purkayastha for Assam v Hyderabad
Most dismissals for a wicketkeeper: Pinal Shah (Baroda) – 40 from 8 matches