The 2009-10 Ranji Trophy produced one of the best finals of all time. Mumbai and Karnataka were involved in an intense encounter, with players constantly being involved in heated exchanges. The likes of Ajit Agarkar, Robin Uthappa, Abhishek Nayar, and Dhawal Kulkarni were all fined for their behavior on the field but that had no impact on the quality of cricket that was on display in Mysore. And, it was eventually Mumbai who won the game by just six runs on this very day - January 14, 2010.
In that era, Mumbai were the team to beat on the domestic circuit. They had already won this competition 38 times, with four of those titles coming in the last seven seasons. They were the defending champions, having hammered Uttar Pradesh in the 2008-09 edition. They were up against Karnataka, who had six titles to their name but hadn’t won one in the last 10 seasons.
In the group stage, Mumbai managed only one outright win (vs Himachal Pradesh) but conceded a first-innings lead (vs Tamil Nadu) in only one of their remaining six matches which all ended in a draw. They then got the better of Haryana (quarter-final) and Delhi (semi-final) on the basis of a first-innings lead and cemented their place in the final. Meanwhile, Karnataka won four of their six group-stage games but their quarter-final (vs Punjab) and semi-final (vs UP) games were also decided on the basis of a first-innings lead.
The two teams were pretty even on paper and either could have won the final. Mumbai won the toss and opted to bat first but Vinay Kumar dismantled their top-order in the first session. The right-arm seamer got rid of openers Sahil Kukreja (0) and skipper Wasim Jaffer (3) in his first three overs and then dismissed in-form Ajinkya Rahane to reduce Mumbai to 20/3.
Onkar Khanvilkar (25) and Nayar (37) did stick around for a while but it was wicketkeeper-batter Vinayak Samant (67) who made sure Mumbai would get past 200. Mumbai clearly missed Rohit Sharma who even slammed a triple century earlier in the tournament, but Karnataka too were without Rahul Dravid. The likes of Ramesh Powar (23), Iqbal Abdulla (30) and Kulkarni (20) all made decent contributions down the order and propelled Mumbai to 233.
Mumbai knew they had a below-par score but a bowling attack comprising Agarkar, Kulkarni, Aavishkar Salvi, Powar, Nayar, and Abdulla were always going to be tough to tackle for Karnataka. And, that’s exactly what happened. Opener KB Pawan (33) was the only one who managed to cross the 30-run mark as Karnataka were bundled out for 130, conceding a lead of 103. Right-arm seamer Salvi got five wickets, while Kulkarni chipped in with two.
Mumbai got a massive first-innings lead but Karnataka were never going to throw in the towel. Abhimanyu Mithun (6/71) and Vinay Kumar (3/78) once again destroyed Mumbai’s top order and reduced them to 34/4. The lead was still in the 130s but that’s when Nayar (50) and Kulkarni (87) put on 95 runs for the sixth wicket. Powar (28*) once again played a cameo down the order and took Mumbai’s lead past 300.
The target of 338 against Mumbai’s bowling attack looked impossible, especially after how Karnataka batted in the first innings. Agarkar then dismissed CM Gautam (nought), Pawan (23) and Uthappa (4) with just 46 runs on the board and it looked like Mumbai would run away with the game. Ganesh Satish was still battling it out and that’s when Manish Pandey walked in and the two changed the complexion of the match.
Pandey, who was the leading run-getter (882 runs @ 63) in that edition, had three centuries and four fifties prior to the final but saved his best for the last. The young batter slammed 18 fours and a six in his 151-ball 144 and put on a partnership of 209 runs with Satish (215-ball 75). Pandey took the attack to Mumbai and Karnataka then needed only 83 runs with seven wickets remaining. It was Abdulla who got the big wicket of Pandey and Karnataka then also lost Amit Verma and Satish is quick succession.
The Gangothri Glades was jam-packed and Stuart Binny (17) and Sunil Joshi (16) added 36 runs for the seventh wicket to bring some stability. However, the two were dismissed in the space of seven runs and Karnataka still needed 35 runs. Vinay Kumar (15) and Sreenath Aravind (10) got a couple of boundaries and got the required runs down to 16. Kulkarni then knocked over Vinay Kumar and gave him a send-off before Aravind was caught and bowled off Agarkar’s bowling, giving him a five-wicket haul and Mumbai their 39th title.
Nayar and some of the Mumbai players then started celebrating in front of the Karnataka dressing room and made a series of furious gestures. "Things got a little bit heated at times. Obviously, I don't like that, I myself am a calm guy. I don't like to show my emotions too much but not all of them are like me. But yes, at some stages it did go out of limit. I won't point out specific instances but that's temper showing itself. Both teams wanted to win. At important stages, they felt bad and it did get out of hand," said Jaffer after the match.
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