Sheldon Jackson played one of the most important innings of his career, an unbeaten 133, to guide Saurashtra to their second Vijay Hazare Trophy title as they comfortably beat Maharashtra by five wickets in the final in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Saurashtra's well-oiled bowling unit led by its skipper Jaydev Unadkat, tamed a formidable batting line-up from Maharashtra before Jackson's unbeaten century overshadowed Ruturaj Gaikwad's 108 to chase down a target of 249 with 21 balls to spare.
"I think the toss did play a crucial role, we were lagging behind. It was 30-70 percent of advantage/disadvantage. After 30-40 overs, we were ahead. Batting first, 250 was a very good total," Gaikwad said after the match.
As Gaikwad rightly conceded, that toss did become one of the major deciding factors as Unadkat rightly put Maharashtra into bat.
At the onset, he led the bowling show with an exemplary opening spell (6-1-5-0) in the Powerplay after electing to field as Gaikwad batted in a painstakingly slow fashion scoring 15 off first 61 balls.
"(It is) unbelievable and yet to sink in. Winning one time is amazing but winning it second time proves that we are a champion side. Big game, big guys stepped up," Unadkat said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Hard fought hundred for Gaikwad, Jani gets a hat-trick
While Unadkat (1-25 with 41 dot balls) was Saurashtra's bowling hero in the first 10 overs, keeping the dangerous Gaikwad quiet, the last 10 overs of the Maharashtra innings belonged to all-rounder Chirag Jani. The seam bowling all-rounder's 48th over hat-trick (Saurabh Nawale, Rajvardhan Hagargekar and Vicky Ostwal) did stop Maharashtra from adding at least 20 more runs.
Bowling wicket-to-wicket, Jani cleaned up Nawale and Hangargekar and then sealed his hat-trick, trapping Vicky Ostwal plumb in front. Maharashtra managed just two boundaries and scored 37 runs losing five wickets in the next seven overs in a crucial turning point for Saurashtra.
In the middle overs, it was another Gaikwad show as he reached his 12th hundred (highest in competition history) with seven fours and four sixes. He thus had three hundreds in three knock-out games. But on a slowish track, Saurashtra bowlers never really let the Maharashtra batters dominate with second best score being Azim Kazi's 31.
Gaikwad clearly fought hard for his hundred that was evident with his roaring celebration when he notched his century off a boundary against Jani.
Jackson stands tall
Chasing a below-par target, Saurashtra got off to a perfect start with Jackson and Harvik Desai (50; 67 balls) stitching a 125-run opening stand in 26.4 overs.
Mukesh Choudhary (2/38) then gave a double blow, dismissing Desai with a short ball and Jay Gohil (0) with angular one in a space of three balls while a third wicket -- Samarth Vyas (12) was holed in the deep of Ostwal's bowling.
They lost half of their side 39.5 overs after all-rounder Prerak Mankad was cleaned up by left-arm spinner Satyajeet Bachhav as the match was evenly poised with Saurashtra needing 57 in 10.1 overs.
WHAT. A. WIN! 🙌 🙌— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) December 2, 2022
Those celebrations! 👏 👏
The @JUnadkat-led Saurashtra beat the spirited Maharashtra side to bag the #VijayHazareTrophy title 🏆
Scorecard 👉 https://t.co/CGhKsFzC4g #Final | #SAUvMAH | @mastercardindia | @saucricket pic.twitter.com/2aPwxHkcPD
However, Bacchav was hammered by Jackson, who hit four out of his five sixes off the left-arm orthodox's bowling. Maharashtra failed to apply pressure and some sloppy fielding let them down. India's U-19 World Cup star Rajvardhan Hangargekar (0-70 in 9 overs) got a fair amount of pasting.
The match ended when Jackson dispatched seamer Manoj Ingale over square leg for a six and played the leg glance to chase down the target.
Brief Scores: Maharashtra 248/9 in 50 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 108, Azim Kazi 37; Chirag Jani 3-43) lost to Saurashtra 249/5 in 46.3 overs (Sheldon Jackson 133, Harvik Desai 50; Mukesh Chaudhary 2-38, Vicky Ostwal 2-20) by five wickets