Baroda's one-wicket victory over Haryana in the Group B encounter of the Ranji Trophy's fourth round on Tuesday was the 13th such occasion in tournament history that a team squeaked home that slim a margin. Baroda dominated the game for three days but found themselves in the doldrums on day four when they slumped to 108 for 9 chasing 132.
The heart-stopping victory put Baroda on the top of Group B points table along with Odisha, while Haryana remain at the bottom of the barrel having lost all three matches this season.
The heroes for Baroda were Bhargav Bhatt and Utkarsh Patel who added 25 runs for the last wicket to take their team to an unforgettable victory. To add to the luster, Patel chalked up his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket playing his fourth match, while Bhatt chalked up six wickets in the match. Cricketnext spoke to the two heroes for Baroda and the team coach, who watched tensely from the sidelines, a day after the epic match in Lahli.
Bhargav Bhatt: First of all, I would like to inform you that it was my mother's birthday and I dearly wanted to gift her something which remains vivid in her memories. Could I have given something more special to her? This is the best match of my career - the most thrilling and pulsating.
When the ninth wicket fell, there was deafening silence in the dressing room but our coach (Sanath Kumar) told me to hang in there and not gift my wicket away. He also advised me to pick the right balls to go for my shots as ultimately runs would win us the match. Utkarsh was at the other end and he said the same thing to me. My mind was very clear; I had no half-measures. When I got a half-volley from Amit Mishra, I carved it for a straight six.
We will take a lot of heart and motivation from the match and will try to carry the momentum to the rest of the season. Our first aim is to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Utkarsh Patel: This match is like a dream come true. What an absolute nerve-shredder. We all felt the heat and pinch. I hit the winning runs by cracking Sachin Rana to the sweeper-cover boundary, ripped out the stumps and scampered towards the dressing room. Everyone was surprised and completely jubilant. Perhaps they thought that we had lost the match when the ninth wicket fell.
No one told me anything when that wicket fell as everyone was in the dressing room. Bhargav and I play for the same club in Baroda and I've known him for years. We have a good understanding between us. We decided to play according to the merit of the ball. We defended the good balls, pinched singles and doubles, and whacked the bad balls. Our game plan was simple.
It was just my fourth first-class match. I snaffled my first five-wicket haul and hit the winning runs in such a tight match. This is the kind of stuff one dreams about as a kid and I still cannot believe what I've done. My captain Ambati Raydu told me that he didn't know that I could bat so well as he had not seen me batting before.
Sanath Kumar: The atmosphere in the dressing room was gloomy after the ninth wicket fell. We had dominated Haryana for three days but just a one bad session always cost us the game. I think some of our batsmen played irresponsible shots. They should have been more watchful and mature. Of course, Haryana’s bowlers bowled well and I'm not taking anything away from them, but our batsmen were equally to be blamed for the kind of predicament we found ourselves in.
I had seen Bhatt bat in the nets and always felt that he had not done justice to his potential. So, right from the starting of the season, I made sure that he concentrated on his batting as well. A lot of teams have good lower middle orders which adds valuable runs, so it's important that your bowlers have the skills to dug their heels in and contribute a bit with bat in the hours of crisis.
I told Bhatt to stay at the crease and make bowlers earn his wicket but if he gets a ball which is meant to be hit, go for it. He did exactly that. He blasted Mishra for a six. Patel and he showed creditable composure to see Baroda home.