Crowning glory in sight after Wadkar ton

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Jan 2018 10:05:05

By Anupam Soni,


Dec 31,

ON THE brink of his maiden First-Class century a newbie is more likely to be circumspect in the nervous 90s. Tell that to Akshay Wadkar and he shows the way to seal the issue. The Vidarbha lad moved from 90 to the magical and coveted three-figure mark in just two strokes. First he lofted left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra for the maximum and on the first ball of the next over by the same bowler, Wadkar again went over Mishra’s head for a four. And then he let his body to express all the emotions.

He punched the air…raised both the arms...jumped …acknowledged the applause from team-mates, family members sitting a couple of tiers above the pavilion and the egging-on crowd (much, much more than anyone expected at a neutral venue). Then there was little gesture of gratitude. Coach Chandrakant Pandit was the first person to welcome him in the dressing room as Wadkar returned for tea. The keeper, who was handed his First-Class debut four matches earlier, touched the feet of Pandit and then proceeded further.

Wadkar was one of the aces for Vidarbha on Sunday. The other was Aditya Sarvate. Both produced resolute knocks that took Vidarbha one step closer to realising their dream of winning a maiden Ranji Trophy crown. Wadkar’s maiden unbeaten ton and his fruitful association with Sarvate and a happy-go-lucky Siddhesh Neral produced 169 and 113* runs for the seventh and eighth wickets partnerships respectively and helped Vidarbha take a massive 233 runs lead over Delhi in the final at Holkar Stadium on the last day of the year.

One can certainly expect more good news from the team making it a Happy New Year for the entire region. Vidarbha were 528 for seven in reply to Delhi’s 295 at the end of the third day. Wadkar (133*; 243b,16x4, 1x6) and Neral (56*; 92b, 4x4, 4x6) would resume action on Monday. Wadkar was joined by Sarvate (79; 154b, 11x4) when the new ball was due in two overs. After Delhi seamer Navdeep Saini had removed both the overnight batsmen night-watchman Akshay Wakhare (17; 26b, 4x4) and Wasim Jaffer (78; 150b, 11x4) in that order, skipper Rishabh Pant waited for another couple of overs before taking the new ball. If Pant was expecting a Rajneesh Gurbani-like performance from his bowlers to wipe-off the latter half, he was left completely disappointed; partly due to his bowlers’ inefficiency and mainly due to the resolve of the middle-order duo.

Though the batsmen had their share of luck, they never got bogged down. Both complemented each other and were matching stroke for stroke. The short balls were pulled away mercilessly while those outside the off were fiercely cut. There were some audacious shots too like a forehand slap by Wadkar that raced to the long-off ropes off left-arm seamer Kulwant Khejroliya levelling the scores.

On the next ball Vidarbha took lead with a single and the next ball Sarvate celebrated it with a sweetly timed on-driven four. The exchange of punches continued as they kept encouraging and appreciating each other. Wicketkeeper Wadkar, who made his debut against Goa this season after Jitesh Sharma and Siddhesh Wath were found wanting behind the stumps, surpassed his top score of unbeaten 67 made against Kerala in the quarter-finals at Surat. This was his fifth consecutive match after making debut.

Sarvate, who has been a revelation this winter, has also played some defining knocks. His over hundred runs against Karnataka in the semi-finals and an 89 against Kolkata in Kalyani, where he played brilliantly taking the tail along, were very crucial ones. Sarvate was in the groove right away. The first ball was so nicely timed that it reached the extra cover boundary teasing the sweeper cover fielder Unmukt Chand, substituting for Gautam Gambhir. Later in the day, Gambhir dropped a straight forward chance at first slip off Vikas Mishra. That second four in a row brought Sarvate’s half century from 62 balls with eight boundaries.
Neral piled more misery on Delhi bowlers with his powerful hitting helping himself to a maiden First-Class fifty. The batsman, who was twice out on no-balls, rode his luck frustrating the bowlers.

Earlier, on the fourth ball of the day, Saini put extra effort and the bounce surprised Jaffer, who was then at the overnight score of 61. The resultant edge from the shoulder of the bat was going directly to Dhruv Shorey at first slip but Kunal Chandela, standing at the second, dived to pouch the ball only to grass it. Vidarbha have batted out Delhi, it seems. From here onwards, the onus will be on the team from the capital to make a match out of it.