In their last final appearance in 1992-93, Maharashtra finished runners-up by losing to Punjab by 120 runs. Maharashtra was led by Surendra Bhave in that final. Bhave is the coach this season and would be keen to see his team lift the trophy in the title round to be played in Hyderabad from January 27 to 31.
At the Holkar stadium here on Monday, Bengal denied Maharashtra an innings victory. However, Maharashtra did not waste much time when they were set a target of only eight runs, Harshad Khadiwale scoring the required runs in two overs with two full days to spare.
Resuming the third day at 16/1, still needing 325 to make Maharashtra bat again, they put up a total of 348, leaving Rohit Motwani’s team only eight to book their final berth.
Bengal were outplayed in all departments. Wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha was the only bright spot as he remained unbeaten on 108.
Bengal lost wickets at regular intervals. First innings bowling hero, Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha and Domnic Joseph shared the spoil, by picking up three wickets apiece. There was some resistance, though, with Sudip Chatterjee and Saha spending two hours and 28 minutes for the fourth wicket, though it yielded only 42 runs.
When Fallah dismissed Chatterjee for 49 by inducing him to edge to Motwani’s gloves, he became the left-arm seamer’s 200th first-class victim in his 50th match.
Sourav Sarkar smashed 35 off just 22 balls while Ashok Dinda scored 20-ball 25. Saha delayed the inevitable as he reached his ninth first-class hundred.
“It is a great victory,”said Bhave. “It has been the effort of the entire team and they played good cricket.”
On the other hand, Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla blamed it on the wicket for the poor show.
“This is a five-day match and it’s getting over in just three days. It shows that the wicket was not sporting. Moreover, the losing of toss also made the difference for us,” he said.