Unadkat says ‘easy call’ leaves India squad for Ranji Trophy final

“It was an easy call, Saurashtra played a big role in my comeback and success and it wasn’t difficult to take the decision for the final,” Unadkat told ESPNcricinfo after the first day of the Ranji Trophy final. “I had a chat with the Indian management, and they were also supportive of the decision. Playing a role in Saurashtra’s success is close to my heart, so it was an easy decision to make.

Unadkat made an immediate impact in the final, winning the toss, putting Bengal in and striking in the first over with the wicket of Abhimanyu Easwaran. In the same spell, he got Manoj Tiwary to groove around the stumps and finished with 3 for 44 as Bengal folded for 174. It was the first time since the 2017-18 final that the team that won the toss opted to to bat, and Unadkat said his decision to risk batting last was due to the bowler-friendly conditions on the first day in Kolkata.

“The green color on the pitch played a role in making the toss decision easier in a final,” said Unadkat. “But there was also skill from the other bowlers to get the early breakthroughs. We knew we had to maximize the advantage on the surface because the pitch was flat as the day went on. We knew that was going to happen, so it was crucial for them to get the big wickets them while there was some moisture.

“My attack shot to a right-hander was often around the stumps, especially when the ball was swinging.

This is the first time that “full DRS” has been used in a Ranji Trophy game. Saurashtra went for it twice, but no reviews were released and the one time they chose not to go upstairs, they ended up giving a life to Shahbaz Ahmed. The Bengals player was on 38 when the on-field umpire dismissed an lbw shout only for replays to show he was out. Shahbaz would score 31 more runs.

Unadkat said DRS in domestic games is new to many of his players, and hence wrong calls are part of the learning process. “Given how the first innings ended, it’s not a big concern now,” he said. “It’s also not often that domestic cricketers get to play with DRS in action, so it’s new for them too. It happens sometimes on the field, but the introduction of DRS in itself is a big plus.”

The fight is not over yet – Bengal captain Tiwary

Even as Bengal find themselves on the back foot in their quest for a Ranji Trophy title for the first time since 1989-90, captain Tiwary retains hope of taking the lead.

“The match is not over yet,” he told reporters. “There is still a chance we can put them together and take the lead. I say this because I feel like the port tomorrow could be like today.

“We’ve already discussed the areas of improvement. It’s about getting eight-wicket balls and we have to make sure we don’t leak runs tomorrow.”

The light fades quickly in the evenings in Kolkata, so day matches here start half an hour earlier, which brings the bowlers into the game a bit longer. Bengal, whose lead is now just 93, will be hoping to take advantage.

Tiwary was pleased with their response after Saurashtra raced away to 38 for 0 inside six overs. In the next 11 overs, Saurashtra scored only 45 more and lost two wickets to finish at 81 for 2. The difference in the two innings of play was a huddle by Tiwary between the sixth and seventh overs when it appeared that the players of Bengal were energized by the early onslaught from Harvik Desai’s bat.

“Everyone had become quiet and their morale went down after hitting a few boundaries,” Tiwary said. “So it was important to remind them that the match is not over and tell them to bowl stupid [energy]. And you saw that we got two grooves before stumps.

“Cricket is a game of muscle memory, sometimes you’re out of rhythm. If you release late, you bowl short, if you release early, you half volley. All season, that was the worst start from our bowlers, but it’s fine . We hope to improve tomorrow.”

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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