Ranji Trophy: Maharashtra sensing an end to the pain

The Second World War was barely underway the last time Maharashtra tasted Ranji trophy glory, yet victory over Bengal has taken them to within a game of ending 72 years of hurt.

A Kamal Khan / Foter / CC BY

by Matt Carter

It has been a quiet remarkable effort from the side who last year failed to even win a single group game, a return which saw them slip into Group C – the weakest of the three pools. Some would argue that has proven a blessing in disguise, given that it allowed Maharashtra a perceived easier route into the last eight.

Their victory over Bengal and the ruthless quarter final win over holders and highly fancied Mumbai, however have gone someway to silencing those questioning how worthy Maharashtra were off their last eight birth.

That victory over Mumbai has clearly seen Maharashtra’s belief soar, as it would do with any side. The heroic efforts of that win were built around the efforts of Kedhar Yadhav yet the prolific run machine was relatively quiet by his standards against Bengal, this time it was the turn of Sangram Dilp Atitkar who smashed 168 to take the game away from Bengal. Ankit Bawne’s disciplined ship steadying 89 is also well worth a mention, given that when he came to the crease at 91-3 their opponents were still just about in the game.

It was not however the batsmen who set up this latest success, for Bengal’s hopes were in tatters as early as mid-afternoon on the first day with Samad Fallah’s 7-58 helping shoot them out for a lowly 114. From that position there was never likely to be a way back in as firstly Bawne ground the game away, before Atitkar really turned the screw. Bengal made a better fist of it second time around with former India test stumper Wriddhiman Saha hitting a valiant second century in two matches, in truth though that was only delaying the inevitable.

Indien: Mumbai
patrikmloeff / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Some will state that Maharashtra enjoyed the better of the conditions, considering the pitch was at its most responsive in those early sessions and had significantly flattened out on day two, but few can debate how impressively clinical the hosts were in exploiting that fortune. After such a prolonged period of pain, it would be wrong to begrudge them of a little bit of luck in their quest to end the suffering.

This will represent a third final since they last experienced a Ranji trophy triumph and they will be hoping for it to be it be third time lucky. It seems most likely that Karnataka will be the side standing in the way, should they complete what looks a likely victory over Punjab then this final hurdle would represent Maharashtra’s toughest challenge yet. Karnataka are a side on a devastating run of form, if they do as expected win their semi, they will be able to boast a winning streak of seven successive games.

On paper Maharashtra would look right up against it, particularly in the bowling department where they have not excelled as regularly as they have done with the bat. Further to that their free scoring batsmen will be pushed to limits by Vinay Kumar and co.

Being second best on paper though will be nothing new for Maharashtra and as we have seen over the past two games they are side far greater than the sum of their parts – that is also not to say they don’t have some very good parts, because they certainly do. Victory would be a shock but so was getting this far and for Maharashtra this could finally be their turn.

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