Pathan takes first steps on the road back
Baroda 9 for 0 trail Mumbai 233 (Muzumdar 97, Irfan Pathan 3-49) by 224 runs
From the picnicking crowds at Kingsmead, Durban, to the near-empty stands in his hometown Vadodara, the fall from grace could not have been more drastic for Irfan Pathan. Faced with his latest trial, he responded by showing glimpses of his prodigious skill that were, however, too infrequent and were flattered by the scoreline at stumps.
Three wickets in three spells, read the manual scoreboard at the Moti Bagh ground, including the crucial scalps of Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai opener (22), and Amol Muzumdar, the captain (97). Despite narrowly missing his century, Muzumdar could take solace in the fact that he eclipsed Ashok Mankad's record of 6619 runs to become the highest-ever run scorer for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.
"I haven't faced him [Pathan] before," Muzumdar said later. "But from a cricket fan's perspective, I'd say he bowled extremely well. His incoming delivery was definitely up to the mark."
Muzumdar wasn't playing the gracious visitor; two deliveries of the 22.5 overs Pathan bowled bore his trademark class. One, a sharply jagging back delivery accounted for Jaffer. Then it was Swapnil Hazare, the medium pacer, at the receiving end of Pathan's incoming delivery.
Those deliveries only whetted the appetite for more but they were few and far between. For his part, Pathan said he was "relaxed and feeling really good" and added that he was "getting the rhythm back".
Mankad, now the Baroda coach, insisted he was happy with his star bowler's showing: after all, Mumbai were tottering at 233 all down with 23 minutes of play left on the first day. "I think he is enjoying himself at the moment. That, I think will prove to be the clincher", Mankad said.
Mankad also sounded optimistic of Pathan's early return to national duty. "It's good to see him so relaxed. He should just concentrate on the job at hand. The other things fall in place automatically."