On this day: Haryana and Mumbai play out the most thrilling Ranji Trophy final

Haryana Ranji Trophy

In early May of 1991, Kapil Dev led an underdog Haryana team into the final of the Ranji Trophy against Bombay (now Mumbai). The match was being played at the Wankhede Stadium and a star-studded Bombay side was the overwhelming favourites. With the likes of Lalchand Rajput, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Vinod Kambli in the XI, Bombay’s batting was going to be tough to beat for Haryana.

However, this batting unit didn’t get a chance to make an impact for the first two days, as Haryana batted 162.3 overs, scoring a mammoth 522. Opening batsman Deepak Sharma scored 199 while Ajay Jadeja and Chetan Sharma got out in the nineties. Bombay batted well, but 522 was always going to be a difficult task on a wicket that was falling apart slowly and slowly, making batting difficult. Yogendra Bhandari picked up five of the 10 Bombay wickets, as the hosts got bundled out for 410 runs. Kapil Dev picked three wickets as well.

A huge first-innings lead meant that Haryana just needed to draw the match, to claim their first-ever Ranji Trophy. Haryana were bundled out for 242 in their second innings. Mumbai was set a target of 355 runs, which was quite improbable, given that there were only 68 overs to be played. It didn’t help that Kapil and Chetan reduced Bombay to 34 for 3 by lunch on day five.

Then came a counter-attacking innings from Tendulkar, who at the time had only one international century. He smashed the Haryana attack to the cleaners, scoring a valiant 96 from just 75 balls, which is at times regarded as one of the best knocks played by the master. Dilip Vengsarkar, who played the supporting role in a stand of 134 runs with Tendulkar, knew he had to take matters into his own hands after the 18-year-old was dismissed. It was almost like the youngster had breath hope in the match, which was going to be carried over by Vengsarkar.

Kambli got a quick 45 runs but his dismissal put Mumbai in deep trouble as there was a mini-collapse. At 305 for 9, Haryana could almost smell victory. But, Vengsarkar took 26 runs off one over from Bhandari to push the odds in favour of Bombay. With just three runs required from 15 balls, Bombay failed to keep their nerves. Abey Kuruvilla, who was making his debut in that match got run out, as Haryana won the match by just two runs. Vengsarkar remained not out on 139 and walked out with some tears in his eyes.

The whole of Wankhede Stadium was silenced but eventually rose up to cheer and appreciate the underdogs. Kapil Dev recalled this match to be his favorite after retirement. To defeat Bombay, the team with the most titles would have been extremely pleasing for Haryana as a team. To date, that remains the state’s only ever Ranji Trophy.