Kuldeep Sen blew away the last two batters with scorching pace and steep bounce to finish with a match haul of eight wickets as Rest of India won their 29th Irani Trophy with a walk-in-the-park eight wicket victory over Saurashtra here on Tuesday. (More Cricket News)
While Saurashtra gave a much better account of themselves in the second innings but a total of 380 meant Rest needed only 105 runs with almost two days of play left.
They knocked off the runs in little over a session and half with Abhimanyu Easwaran remaining unbeaten on 63 while adding 81 match winning runs for the unbroken third wicket stand with keeper Kona Bharat (27 not out).
However, it was young Kuldeep (5/94 in 19 overs) who quickly wrapped up the Saurashtra innings in the morning as he bowled one fast and full to trap Parth Bhut plumb in-front.
Jaydev Unadkat, who played a captain's knock of 89 to carry the fight till fourth morning, was finally dismissed when Kuldeep banged one short and extra bounce saw the batter slash hard but only to find the resultant edge carry to keeper Bharat.
With a match-haul of 8 wickets, Kuldeep showed why he is so highly rated at the national level and will be travelling with the Indian team to Perth as a net bowler for the T20 World Cup.
Easwaran, who has an average of 32 in his last 20 innings, played some flowing strokes, including some great cover drives but to be fair, these weren't runs scored under pressure like what Sarfaraz Khan did when he came into bat at 18/3 in RoI's first innings.
Deservingly, Bengal pacer Mukesh Kumar got the 'Player of the Match' award for his mesmerizing first morning spell when he got four top-order wickets to bowl Saurashtra out for 98 and literally pocket the game.
"There was some assistance early on and we tried to bowl them out as quickly as possible. I focus on my line and length," Mukesh said after the game. His skipper Hanuma Vihari was all praise for Sarfaraz Khan, who bailed the team out with a brilliant hundred on the opening day.
"We were in a tough situation on a wicket which was helping for the bowlers, Sarfaraz batted beautifully. The 220-run partnership (him and Sarfaraz) helped us to gain the momentum and we took the game away from them." Vihari scored a cautious 82 off 184 balls, but wasn't disappointed on missing out on a hundred.
"I wanted to get the hundred because I worked hard. I batted long, but at the end the of the day, the contribution helped the team and I am happy." For Saurashtra captain Unadkat, the first day track was a very unlike Rajkot one and that made the difference.
"We crumbled under the conditions. It wasn't a typical Rajkot wicket. We had to be in the game in that session and we couldn't do it. It was about an extraordinary performance from someone who could have pulled out of that situation, didn't happen but we fought till the end.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 98 and 380 (Jaydev Unadkat 89, Prerak Mankad 72, Sheldon Jackson 71, Kuldeep Sen 5/98). RoI 374 & 105/2 (Abhimanyu Easwaran 63 not out). RoI won by 8 wickets.