From a position of 120 for 1, a four-man Madhya Pradesh attack reduced Mumbai to 228 for 5 on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final. Having lost the toss, MP would have probably taken a stumps score of 248 for 5 at the start of the day. Having played an extra batsman who can bowl some spin, and left out pacer Puneet Datey, the couple of frontline MP pacers and spinners persevered throughout a somewhat tricky day for batting, their discipline making it tougher to score for Mumbai.
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Well into the third session, the skies remained heavily overcast, the old ball moved around a bit even after 60 overs. The spinners also found some turn and bounce on what appears to be essentially a dry surface, with rough areas already starting to develop from the bowlers’ follow-throughs.
On a day on which there wasn’t a runaway standout performer on either side, Yashasvi Jaiswal scored a chunk of Mumbai’s runs, falling 22 short of what would have been a fourth successive first-class century. His captain Prithvi Shaw rode his luck at the other end in an opening stand of 87 that created a decent base for Mumbai, from which they had some cushion to reduce the impact of the setbacks that were to come later.
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MP tried to surprise Mumbai as they opened the bowling with left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya. He found a bit of extra bite from a slightly damp morning surface. Jaiswal went through a couple of nervy moments; he tried a slog-sweep and missed, tried to give Kartikeya the charge and was fortunate that his sliced mishit cleared deep mid-on and sailed just over the boundary.
While Jaiswal played a tight game overall, Shaw led an utterly charmed life. A sharp Kartikeya drifter burst in to take an inside edge that popped above forward short leg’s reach. The luckless seamer Gaurav Yadav, deceptively nippy off the surface, went past Shaw’s edge five times in an over without reward. He got a couple to cut back in alarmingly and a couple more to nibble away outside off. In between, Shaw also threw his bat after a wide one.
Shaw still managed to last 79 deliveries, and if he stays in the middle for that long, he does make a contribution. He was bowled for 47, missing a full, straight ball angled into him, his attempted straight drive finding thin air comfortably outside the line of the Anubhav Agarwal delivery.
After this breakthrough, whenever Mumbai began to build a partnership, MP would strike. The next four stands were 33, 27, 38 and 43, all promising more, and all cut short by a combination of MP’s persistence and soft dismissals.
Bowlers stick to their jobs
Armaan Jaffer does not have the consistently effortless finesse of his uncle, but does have a hint of that elegance when he whips through midwicket. But there was nothing elegant about how he pushed at Kartikeya with hard hands and the ball carried all the way to midwicket.
Suved Parkar came in and got another start but off-spinner Saransh Jain’s delivery stopped on him; he had already set himself up on the back foot to whip it hard and ended up lobbing it to midwicket.
Jain bowled beautifully through the day, tossing it up high, varying his pace, inviting the drive outside off with only mid-off and sweeper in, and extracting bounce. He could probably have been a little fuller, the length with which he dismissed Hardik Tamore.
It was a pitch where many edges did not carry to the cordon. Two fell short of the wicketkeeper and first slip off Tamore alone, the hesitant ’keeper-batsman enjoying several slices of fortune. When an edge did carry, Tamore was put down at second slip, a sharp, low chance albeit.
Jain kept trying to lure Tamore into the cover drive, but in trying to be extra watchful after the drop, Tamore pushed inside the line of a full ball that didn’t turn much and edged to slip.
All along, MP kept tweaking the field. There was an in-out one for Kartikeya to Jaiswal, with three deep leg-side men and three close-in catchers. Seeing the ball was not coming on, they employed a couple of short midwickets and short covers each at different times. To Sarfaraz Khan, they had Jain bowling straighter with a 6-3 onside field.
Sarfaraz had walked out to a raucous reception from the couple of hundred fans, with shouts of ‘Sarfaraz best hai’ and ‘vada pav’ ringing around an otherwise empty M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. But contrary to his free-hitting reputation, and as he often does in this format, he barely took risks. Boasting a strike rate in the early 70s in first-class cricket, he downed the shutter for the day, moving to 40 off 125 balls. He did try a couple of hard sweeps, which is a natural shot for him, but found the field.
There was at least one good leg-before shout against every Mumbai batsman, but none of them went in MP’s favour. And in the absence of the Decision Review System (DRS) for an occasion as important as the biggest match of the domestic calendar, they had no recourse.
Nevertheless, Agarwal and Yadav continued to run in with energy late into the day for a collective 36 overs. With the second new ball only two overs old, both will hope they get more of a go with it on the second morning than they did with the first cherry.
Brief scores: Mumbai 248/5 (Jaiswal 78, Shaw 47) vs Madhya Pradesh