Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal scored 131 in the second innings against Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 opener. @ PTI
Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal scored 131 in the second innings against Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 opener. @ PTI

Defending champions Vidarbha’s Ranji Trophy 2018-19 title defence was not according to plan. After conceding a first-innings lead, Vidarbha had to be content with just one point, while Maharashtra bagged three in their Elite Group A opener at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Sunday which ended in a draw.

Put into bat, Maharashtra ended their first innings score at 343, but a dramatic batting collapse saw Vidarbha fold for 120. “We did not expect this to happen. We played irresponsible shots in the first innings. Maharastra bowled well, but nine out of our 10 wickets were due to bad shots,” Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal told CricketCountry on Monday.

Fazal, last season’s second-highest run-scorer, departed for eight in the first dig after he was trapped lbw off Nikit Dhumal. “In the previous over, when I played the same bowler [Nikit Dhumal], I hit two on-drives, but then in the next over, he was bowling that same line and I thought I should hit it towards the midwicket region, so that way, my judgement was a little wrong and I got out,” he said.

Even the experienced Wasim Jaffer failed to notch a high score and added 27, the highest in the innings, with as many as eight batsmen registering single-digit scores.

“When we play at this level, we definitely did not take the match lightly. It’s easy to say that, but it was just that the ball was swinging a bit and there were many error in our judgement,” Fazal recollected.

“We are a champion side, we should have come back after realising that we have lost two wickets, but then it continued.”

Vidarbha’s fortunes changed in the second innings after being forced to follow on with Maharashtra gaining a vital first-innings lead. Fazal, who has played one ODI in 2016 against Zimbabwe, reached his 17th first-class century, and was well set to reach 150 before left-arm pacer Samad Fallah ended his stay at 131.

Jaffer too this time found his mojo and scored 63. Vidarbha found another centurion in their ranks in Akshay Wadkar, who was unbeaten on 122, as they ended their last day at 501/8.

“No one spoke to us during the mid-innings break. All the players realised that this [first-innings performance] is unacceptable. We decided that if we manage a draw from here, it will be a great thing and will almost be like a win for us. We showed some character [in the second innings], which was really creditable, and now, we have got some positives and will move forward,” Fazal said.

Vidarbha play Karnataka in the next round on November 12 at Nagpur, and Fazal believes that the team’s discipline will be right at the forefront for this fixture. “We are a very disciplined side. We’ve got a system that we follow every time, so that unity, system and process that we follow will take us through,” he said.

“Chandu sir [coach Chandrakant Pandit] has been playing a big role in all of this. There are few more individuals who contribute a lot like Wasim bhai, myself and others, but one thing that will help us defend our title is playing smart cricket.”