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Cricket news - Pujara v Umesh headlines enthralling Ranji final

Pujara will hope to lead Saurastra to their first ever Ranji triumph

Just under a month ago, as India were wrapping up their final day of a historic Test series triumph in Sydney, in another part of the world two teams were lining up for their last group stage game of the Ranji Trophy 2018-19. Back in Sydney, Cheteshwar Pujara was the man of the moment for India with the bat, everyone seemed to be hogging him for a photograph. On the bowling front, there were the pacers - Bumrah, Ishant and Shami - posing away as they became the face of an unprecedented year for Indian pace bowling. Numbers had been thrown about with scant verification about the trio's successful year. Conspicuous by his absence when the talk was about India's pace progress was Umesh Yadav. He had played one Test in that series, a forgettable outing in Perth, but in his previous Test he had ran through Windies at home, picking up his best Test figures.

On that last day of the Sydney Test Sydney, Vidarbha were facing Saurashtra at Rajkot, their last game in the group stages. It was a game dominated by Saurashtra but that eventually ended in a draw.

Sidelined throughout India's overseas campaign, Yadav was back when Vidarbha went into the quarterfinal, and returned with a nine-wicket haul against Uttarakhand. And then went on to have an even better outing in the semifinal as he ran through Kerala with a 12-wicket haul. They were telling statements of his quality.

Similarly Pujara, was back straight from Australia for the last stages of Saurashtra's campaign. He made his presence felt with a headline-grabbing century against Karnataka.

For obvious reasons then, their face-off will be the highlight of the final. Neither has been part of the team that lifted the Ranji Trophy, and Pujara has already come out and spoken at length about what it means to him to lift the trophy having got close previously.

The rest of their teams have done incredibly well to get to the final despite not having these two for the full duration of the Ranji Trophy season but will now look up to them to give them that final push in the all-important match.

When: 3rd February, 2019 at 09:30 AM Local Time

Where: Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur

What to expect: As with most good teams, Vidarbha have made this their bastion. They've been unbeaten here over the last two seasons and will start with that advantage. The weather is expected to be clear for the duration of the game.

Teams:

Saurashtra

The Pujara boost apart, Saurashtra's campaign has seen them ride on proven performers in the domestic circuit. Jaydev Unadkat and Sheldon Jackson will have crucial roles to play, as will the openers Harvik Desai and Snell Patel who have been in good form throughout the season. The spin attack is led by left-arm spinner Dharmendrasingh Jadeja who has picked up 52 wickets this season.

Squad:

Aarpit Vasavada, Agnivesh Ayachi, Prerak Mankad, Avi Barot , Samarth Vyas, Kishan Parmar, Jay Chauhan, Sheldon Jackson, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makvana, Shaurya Sanandia, Hardik Rathod, Jaydev Unadkat, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Yuvraj Chudasama, Snell Patel, Harvik Desai, Cheteshwar Pujara

Vidarbha

The defending champions have forged together a side that has become a force to reckon with in recent seasons under Chandrakant Pandit. Wasim Jaffer's expertise, not only with the bat where he leads the run charts for the team with 1003 runs, but also in his inputs to the bowling group when they are on the field. Along with Faiz Fazal, and Aditya Sarwate in the middle order, the batting has a settled look to it. Sarwate, with his left-arm spin, also leads their wicket-charts for them this season with 44 wickets. They'll be keen to enhance their legacy as Vidarbha's golden generation, by adding to their title win last season.

Squad: Faiz Fazal(c), Ganesh Satish, Rajneesh Gurbani, Wasim Jaffer, Akshay Karnewar, Lalit M Yadav, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Aditya Sarwate, Atharwa Taide, Aditya Thakare, Akshay Wadkar, Shrikant Wagh, Akshay Wakhare, Apoorv Wankhade, Siddhesh Wath, Darshan Nalkande, Umesh Yadav

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