Chennai: Rajasthan clinched their second Ranji Trophy title, having taken the first-innings lead over hosts Tamil Nadu on day four, and with it capped one of the most amazing turnarounds for a team in the tournament's 77-year history.
They had all but sealed the result on Sunday, with only the last rites to be completed on the final day on Monday. After having secured a 326-run lead on day four, Rajasthan had batted on to leave Tamil Nadu so far behind that they could not even imagine making a comeback. Robin Bist's 92 was followed by a declaration at 204 for 5, a lead of 531, and Tamil Nadu were jolted by the loss of their openers before the match was called off 13 overs into the final session.
Having declared during the tea break, Rajasthan were given more reason to celebrate when left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh trapped Yo Mahesh lbw first ball and added Abhinav Mukund for 1 with a ball that kept low.
At 7 for 2, Tamil Nadu were looking utterly flabbergasted. K Vasudevadas and Subramaniam Badrinath shut shop and batted out the remaining overs until play was called off. Immediately the team converged in a jubilant huddle, and it was hard not to be moved by their stirring success.
The final day had followed the same script as the past four, with Rajasthan dictating the script. In the morning session, Bist had crossed 1,000 runs for the season to become the first Rajasthan batsman to record the achievement.
Walking in at No. 3 after the dismissal of Aakash Chopra, caught and bowled by seamer Jagannathan Kaushik for 18, Bist began briskly with four boundaries in his first 16 deliveries, but slowed after the introduction of spin from both ends.
Vineet Saxena appeared in the same mode as during his first-innings crawl to 257, but was beaten all ends up by Ramaswamy Prasanna for a 69-ball 13 as he missed a straightforward defensive shot.
At 52 for 2, skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar joined Bist and showed no intent to put no a show. He took 21 deliveries to get off the mark as Rajasthan played out four consecutive maidens. Kanitkar fell lbw to Murali Vijay's innocuous offspin for 12, missing the line of the ball.
Bist opened up after a slow passage, collecting four boundaries in the space of 24 deliveries to move to 43. His half-century duly came before the lunch interval, off 107 balls with a drive past mid-off for four.
When he clipped Kaushik for a single to move to 59, Bist became the first Rajasthan batsman to aggregate 1,000 runs in a Ranji season. The previous was Hanumant Singh's 869 runs in 1966-67.
Whether Bist would reach three figures one last time was the only matter of interest in the second session of the final day. He did not, falling for 92 to the persevering Prasanna, as Tamil Nadu took two quick wickets during the afternoon.
Resuming his innings on 67 after lunch, Bist took 35 deliveries to cross 80, doing so with a back-foot punch for four off left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas. Two more boundaries off Srinivas took him into the nineties, but Bist's innings ended on 92 when his attempt to clear mid-on resulted in a catch to the fielder there.
That left his season tally at 1034 runs at an average of 86.16 and underlined just how important Bist's form has been to Rajasthan retaining their title.
Prasanna (21-9-31-3) picked up his third wicket when Puneet Yadav was bowled off his 12th delivery faced, leaving Rajasthan 180 for 5. Rashmi Ranjan Parida offered solid resistance in scoring an unbeaten 43 off 102 deliveries by tea. After the interval, the proceedings were a formality.
1,000-plus runs in a Ranji season:
1415 – VVS Laxman (Hyderabad), 1999-00
1280 - Vijay Bharadwaj (Karnataka), 1998-99
1260 - Wasim Jaffer (Mumbai), 2008-09
1089 – Ajinkya Rahane (Mumbai), 2008-09
1075 - Sridharan Sriram (Tamil Nadu), 1999-00
1066 – Dheeraj Jadhav (Maharashtra), 2003-04
1037 – Jacob Martin (Baroda), 1998-99
1034 - Raman Lamba (Delhi), 1996-97
1034 – Robin Bist (Rajasthan), 2011-12
1033 – Ajay Sharma (Delhi), 1996-97
1018 - WV Raman (Tamil Nadu), 1988-89
1008 - Rusi Modi (Bombay), 1944-45