Maninder Singh (above) finished with figures of 87.5-18-204-3 in the Karnataka innings. Madan Lal and Rakesh Shukla for Delhi and Roger Binny, Ranjit Khanwilkar, B Vijayakrishna and Raghuram Bhat for Karnataka all conceded over 100 runs in a Ranji final which saw 6 hundreds and 6 more fifties in which even two innings were not completed © Getty Images
Maninder (above) finished with figures of 87.5-18-204-3 in the Karnataka innings. Madan and Shukla for Delhi and Binny, Khanwilkar, Vijayakrishna and Bhat for Karnataka all conceded over 100 runs in a Ranji final which saw 6 hundreds and 6 more fifties in which even two innings were not completed © Getty Images

On March 29, 1982 Delhi chased down 706 to obtain a first-innings lead to clinch the 1981-82 Ranji Trophy. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the unlikeliest of victories in the histories of the tournament.

One of the ridiculous rules that stop the Ranji Trophy being a proper stepping-stone to the next level is the fact that the matches, especially the knock-out matches, are decided on first-innings leads. This invariably leads to high-scoring matches on shirtfront pitches, where the first innings decides the outcome of the matches.

Unlike today, the furiously-contested Ranji Trophy matches of the 1980s were followed by the entire nation: the key players participated in the matches, there were decent crowds, and the entire nation followed the tournament through various forms of media.

The build-up

Delhi had gone past the unfancied Bihar in the semi-final at Jamshedpur. Three batsmen scored hundreds, and the bowlers bowled supported them ably: after Delhi had scored 483, Bihar had responded with 180 and 133 for 9, evading defeat by the narrowest of margins.

On the other hand, at Bangalore, Bombay had batted first and were restricted to 271, largely due to Raghuram Bhat’s eight for 123. Karnataka piled up 470, thanks to Sudhakar Rao’s 155 not out. Bombay, like Bihar, managed an outright defeat very narrowly, finishing with 200 for 9, Bhat taking 5 for 77.

The final

Based on the home-and-away rule, the final was scheduled to be played at Delhi. The hot Delhi summer had already set in, and on the hard, flat, true wicket, winning the toss seemed as good as winning the final itself. Gundappa Viswanath won a good toss and elected to bat.

Day One: Binny attacks, spinners hit back

Roger Binny, opening the batting, attacked right from the onset, with M Srinivasaprasad for company. Binny, generally accustomed to batting lower down the order at international level, was no stranger to the opening slot in the domestic circuit. He reached 2,000 runs in Ranji Trophy when he was on 21, and never looked behind. The two added 109 in no time.

It was then that the Delhi spinners struck. Rakesh Shukla, the leg-break bowler, removed Srinivasaprasad, and then accounted for AV Jayaprakash (yes, later an international umpire) in no time. Maninder Singh took the valuable scalp, trapping Viswanath leg-before for a duck. From 109 without loss Karnataka were suddenly reduced to 124 for 3.

Fortunately for Karnataka, Brijesh Patel hung around with Binny, who reached his hundred just before stumps. Karnataka ended the day on 172 for three with Binny on 103 and Patel on 15.

Day Two: Karnataka grind further

The Karnataka batsmen picked up from where they had left the previous afternoon. Though Binny fell for 115, giving Shukla his third wicket, he had passed on the baton on to Patel. With Sudhakar Rao for company, Patel piled on the runs with ruthless efficiency.

Patel soon reached his hundred and went past Binny before Madan Lal had him caught. That was just about the last thing the Delhi bowlers had to cheer for that afternoon, as Sudhakar Rao and Syed Kirmani batted till stumps. The day ended with Sudhakar Rao on 66 and Kirmani on 33, and Karnataka on 405 for 5.

Day Three: Kirmani and Khanwilkar dominate

Delhi began well the next day, removing Sudhakar Rao for 71 — and removing the sixth wicket with 412 on the board. Surely the end was near?

Kirmani, however, wasn’t going to throw it away, though. He found an able support in R Khanwilkar. Khanwilkar wasn’t really an accomplished batsman, but he soon went past his highest First-Class score of 33, and the duo batted on. Kirmani reached his hundred, and immediately afterwards went past his First-Class best of 101.

Kirmani eventually fell to Maninder for 116, which brought Jayasoorya Abhiram to the crease. To add salt to the already deep wounds of the Delhi-ites, Khanwilkar and Abhiram added 91 for the eighth wicket. Desperate for a wicket, Mohinder Amarnath now brought on Chetan Chauhan to bowl his off-breaks.

Khanwilkar, who had registered his maiden First-Class hundred, hit one back to Chauhan and fell for 113. Six years after the match, he would die in the infamous Quilon rain tragedy in which 11 coaches of the Bangalore-Kanyakumari Island Express went off the bridge, with four bogies getting submerged in the Ashtamudi Lake. He was just 27.

Bharamiah Vijayakrishna was bowled by Chauhan for a duck to give Chauhan his 50th Ranji Trophy wicket, and Raghuram Bhat, the last batsman, walked out to the crease. At stumps Karnataka were on a massive 670 for 9 with Abhiram on 51 and Bhat on 4.

Day Four: Delhi fight back

Bhat was bowled on the fourth morning, but not before Abhiram had registered his highest First-Class score of 75 not out. Karnataka eventually ended their marathon effort at 705.

In response, the Delhi openers, Chauhan and Raman Lamba, resisted the Karnataka bowlers, piling on 95 for the opening stand. By 137, though, both of them had perished, and just when Gursharan Singh and Surinder Amarnath were going well, the latter had to retire due to an illness. Surinder had scored 18, and Delhi were on 172 for 2.

Mohinder, the captain, walked out to join Gursharan. The two batted well, and crafted a partnership to see Delhi out of the hole they were in. Gursharan soon went past his Ranji Trophy highest score of 47, and reached his hundred just before stumps. However, just as he equalled his First-Class highest of 101, he was caught by Sudhakar Rao off Binny to give him his 50th Ranji Trophy wicket. The day’s play ended with that wicket with Mohinder on 64, and Delhi on 302 for 3.

Day Five: Hanging by a thread

Surinder came out to join his brother as play resumed the next day. He fell cheaply, though, leg-before to Binny. Kirti Azad joined his captain, and the two of them fought back well. Azad had reached 1,000 runs in Ranji Trophy with his first run, and the duo put up a solid partnership.

Mohinder reached his hundred soon. Though he lost Azad for 50, he now had Surinder Khanna for company. Mohinder had already gone past 3,000 Ranji Trophy runs, and the partnership thrived under some restrictive bowling from Vijaykrishna and Bhat.

Surinder fell to Vijayakrishna after a vital partnership, and Delhi ended the day with 543 for 6, with Mohinder on 181 and Madan Lal on 29. As the first innings of both sides hadn’t been completed, the scheduled reserve day had to be used to decide the Ranji Trophy final.

Day Six: The miracle-partnership

Disaster struck early the next morning as Mohinder’s stumps were rattled by Binny. Madan Lal fell soon, bowled by Bhat, and at 589 for 8, it looked like Karnataka’s match. Surely Delhi would not be able to score 117 runs with only 2 wickets in hand — and the ‘bunny’ Maninder being the only one left to bat?

Shukla and Rajesh Peter thought differently, though. Though Shukla was an accomplished batsman in the domestic circuit, Peter was really a bonafide tail-ender. They braved out the dangerous Binny, and then smothered the left-arm spin of Bhat and Vijayakrishna, over after over.

The partnership reached fifty, and soon the Delhi fielders began to panic a bit. Peter soon went past his highest First-Class score of 27, and grinded on as the score went closer and closer to the 706-mark. Viswanath tried everything, including bringing himself on, but could not separate the duo.

And then, the unthinkable happened, when Delhi went past Karnataka’s score of 705. As they reached 707 for 8, play was called off, with Delhi the victors after six days of one-sided battle between the bat and the ball. Shukla remained unbeaten on 69 and Peter on 67, and while Vijayakrishna had returned figures of 71-19-141-2, Bhat had gone a step further, with marathon figures of 94-26-180-1.

Delhi went on to win the Ranji Trophy as a result, but was the match really beneficial to Indian cricket the way premier domestic finals are supposed to be? One wonders.

Brief Scores:

Karnataka 705 (Brijesh Patel 124, Syed Kirmani 116, Roger Binny 115, Ranjit Khanwilkar 113; Rakesh Shukla 3 for 158, Maninder Singh 3 for 204) lost to Delhi 707 for 8 (Mohinder Amarnath 185, Gursharan Singh 101; Roger Binny 3 for 134) on first-innings lead.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)