Jackson and Jani play starring roles as Saurashtra win Vijay Hazare Trophy

Saurashtra 249 for 5 (Jackson 133*, Desai 50, Jani 30*, Ostwal 2-20, Choudhary 2-38) beat Maharashtra 248 for 9 (Gaikwad 108, Kazi 37, Shaikh 31*, Jani 3-43) by five wickets

It was a memorable day for Sheldon Jackson, who struck a fine 133 not out to lead Saurashtra past Maharashtra’s 248 to their second Vijay Hazare Trophy title in the final in Ahmedabad. Chirag Jani was the other star for Saurashtra as he first picked up a hat-trick en route returns of 3 for 43 and then hit a calm 25-ball 30 to be by Jackson’s side when they reached the finish line.

That was after Ruturaj Gaikwad hit his fourth century in five matches in the tournament to help Maharashtra post 248 for 9. After a slow start, the Maharashtra captain finished with 108 off 131 balls, hitting seven fours and four sixes.

Chasing 249, Harvik Desai and Jackson began cautiously, with Mukesh Choudhary and Manoj Ingale starting with maiden overs. Jackson, who didn’t have a particularly prolific run leading up to the final, was on 3 off 18 balls before an aerial chip past wide mid-off got him his first four. He then feasted on Rajvardhan Hangargekar’s short and wide deliveries, hitting him for three fours through the arc between backward point and covers across his first two overs.

Satyajeet Bachhav’s third over truly got the best out of Jackson, who charged down to hit the left-arm spinner straight over his head for two sixes before a misfield at sweeper cover got him another boundary. He brought up his half-century off 66 balls and Desai followed him by getting there in 61 balls.

Saurashtra were in command at 125 without loss when Choudhary struck twice in three balls to dismiss Desai and Jay Gohil and turn the game. Vicky Ostwal got into the act after that as he kept the batters quiet and finished with 2 for 20 in his ten overs.

But with Jackson getting to a 116-ball century and stitching a 36-ball 42 run partnership for the fourth wicket with Vasavada, Saurashtra managed to keep their noses in front.

Ostwal sent back Vasavada for his second wicket, and Bachhav got rid of Prerak Mankad immediately after, and when Jani joined Jackson in the middle, Saurashtra were still 57 adrift. But the pair put the pressure back on Maharashtra and knocked off the runs needed with 21 balls to spare. Fittingly, it was Jackson who hit a six and a four to finish the job.

In nippy conditions in the morning, Jaydev Unadkat and Kushang Patel kept the Maharashtra openers quiet – Gaikwad and Pavan Shah couldn’t find the boundaries but also found strike-rotation difficult. It led to Pavan attempting a risky single after flicking Unadkat to midwicket to be run-out courtesy a direct hit from Jani.

The battle of the morning was between Unadkat and Gaikwad, both experienced players fighting inch for inch with neither giving any. After a four-over spell, Unadkat changed ends and thought he had Gaikwad caught behind, but the umpire was unmoved. He gave away just one run in the two overs after changing ends and after his first two spells, his figures read 6-1-5-0. That also involved a mean bouncer that hit Bachhav on the helmet.

Gaikwad, meanwhile, struggled to get going as Maharashtra crawled to 18 for 1 at the ten-over mark. He was on 10 off 45 balls before he hit is first four – a sweep over backward square-leg off Dharmendrasinh Jadeja. A couple of overs later, he pulled fast bowler Kushang over square leg.

After a 66-run second-wicket partnership, Gaikwad combined to add 94 for the fourth wicket with Azim Kazi. It was a phase of play that saw Maharashtra increase their rate of scoring significantly. Gaikwad, who brought up his half-century in 96 balls – his slowest this season – took only 29 balls for his next fifty runs, getting to his century in 125 balls.

He took on Jadeja in the process, hitting the left-arm spinner on the off side repeatedly. He scored his third century a row with back-to-back sixes off Jani before a run-out brought a tame end to his knock. Maharashtra couldn’t accelerate much after that, and Jani’s hat-trick – Saurabh Nawale, Hangargekar and Ostwal his victims – in the penultimate over made them stop well short of a par score.

The win enhanced Unadkat’s credentials as captain; he had led Saurashtra to their first Ranji Trophy title in 2019-2020. He also finished at the top of the wicket-taking charts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 19 strikes to his name.

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