Menaria ensures honours remain even
Mumbai 293 for 8 (Rahane 73, Rohit 62, Jaffer 60, Menaria 3-7) v Rajasthan
Rajasthan fought well to restrict Mumbai, whose innings was powered by a 106-run fourth-wicket stand between Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma, both of whom scored half-centuries. However, Ashok Menaria, a part-time left-arm slow bowler making his debut, took 3-1-7-3 to keep the honours even on the first day.
With the pitch suited to batting, Wasim Jaffer, Mumbai's new captain, had no hesitation about his decision at the toss. Jaffer's start with the bat, though, wasn't as convincing: on 13, he fished at a Sumit Mathur delivery that seamed away but the ball eluded the slips. In the next over Jaffer shook off his rustiness with a fluent forward punch off Pankaj Singh.
Sahil Kukreja, his opening partner, departed soon with a flashy pull off Mathur that went straight to square-leg. Rahane thwarted Rajasthan's progress, getting off the mark with consecutive boundaries off Vikrant Yadav on the off side. Though the pitch was hard and offered enough bounce, the lack of any movement - in the air or off the pitch - helped the batsmen.
Rajasthan's fast bowlers kept it simple and bowled a consistent line and length, waiting for the batsmen to commit the mistake. Soon after getting to his half-century, Jaffer tried to glide one down the leg side off Mathur but the ball took a faint edge and travelled behind to Nikhil Doru.
In came Amol Muzumdar, Mumbai's captain last season and the team's senior-most player. He was immediately rattled by the pace and slight movement from Vikrant Yadav, and edged one to Doru. Rohit was then lucky to not fall for a duck. Mathur's first ball pitched on the seam and moved away and Rohit was squared up. The next ball darted in and he did well to bring his bat down in time. The third moved away and Rohit's streaky drive raced to the third-man boundary.
Rohit, though, overcame the early nerves. Rahane had set an aggressive tone with two boundaries in the first over after lunch, and Rohit helped himself to some easy servings and took particular fancy to Gajendra Singh's ineffective slow left-arm spin, hitting three fours in a row. Rahane reached his half-century with a confident charge to Gajendra past the long-on boundary. A few balls later, Rohit, too, went past 50 with a square drive off the back foot for another four.
Mumbai's hopes of a big total were jolted when Rohit went for a paddle sweep; the resultant edge deflected off the keeper's gloves to Venugopal Rao in the slips. Two balls later Sairaj Bahutule, returning to the Mumbai team after three seasons with Maharashtra, was dismissed going for a rash drive. Rahane, too, fell in a moment of impatience as he played across to a straight one from Pankaj that trapped him plumb in front. Luckily for Mumbai cameos from Ramesh Powar and Ajit Agarkar ensured they didn't crumble easily.
Jaffer admitted that Mumbai would have been happy with more wickets in the bag, but he expected them to take control soon. "The wicket is spinning and if we can get anywhere near 350 we've the bowlers to do the job," he said after the day's play.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo