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The Report by Abhishek Purohit at the Holkar Cricket Stadium
January 2, 2012
Mumbai 70 for 5 (K Pawar 30*, M Ali 2-2, Sudhindra 2-14) trail
Madhya Pradesh 192 (Birla 63, Kulkarni 5-74, Waingankar 3-29) by
Madhya Pradesh's fast bowlers fought back with relentless discipline, after their batsmen displayed poor application against an average attack, on a wicket that demanded it. The 22-year old Udit Birla and Mohnish Mishra showed that there were plenty of runs to be made on the greenish surface if batsmen played their strokes with conviction. Circumspection, however, did not go unpunished, as their team-mates and later, the Mumbai batsmen, found out.
Batting has certainly not been MP's forte this season; it is the bowling that has largely carried them to the knockouts. The trend continued in the tentative manner in which they batted after Mumbai chose to field, taking into account the cold weather and the grass cover on the pitch. Three of the top seven went leg-before, hesitant to get forward while defending. Mumbai bowled well in patches, producing good deliveries to dismiss the three batsmen who looked in control - the aggressive Birla and Mishra and the in-form Naman Ojha.
MP showed immense character in the way they came out to defend 192, their fast bowlers displaying far greater control than Mumbai's had. There was little to drive, and lesser to work on the leg side, as the runs dried up. The pressure brought injudicious shot selection from Mumbai, and the wickets started to fall.
TP Sudhindra showed why he is now the joint-leading wicket-taker this season with an opening spell of 11-5-11-2. Onkar Gurav consumed more than an hour for his six runs, and then moved too far across to work TP Sudhindra towards midwicket. The ball clipped his pad and trickled onto the stumps. Mumbai then lost the crucial wicket of Wasim Jaffer when he chased a wide delivery from Amarjeet Singh early in his innings to be caught behind. Suryakumar Yadav tried to work one half-heartedly on the leg side only to spoon it up to midwicket.
The general approach of the batsmen today was in contrast to the way Birla and Mishra went after the Mumbai bowling. Mishra drove fluently whenever the ball was pitched up and with Ojha defending safely at the other end, MP motored along to 54 for 1. Kshemal Waingankar, who was under-bowled despite being the best of the Mumbai quicks on the day, got one to move in from a fuller length and bowled Mishra through the gate as the batsman went for another drive. Balwinder Sandhu drew the surprisingly quiet Ojha forward to produce the outside edge to the wicketkeeper.
As MP started to disintegrate, Birla came harder at Mumbai. Dhawal Kulkarni had a five-for ultimately but he also overdid the short ball to Birla who responded with three consecutive pulled boundaries. Kulkarni pitched the next one up but Birla was ready for that length as well, and cover-drove him for another four. Birla's belligerence made him go for another pull to a delivery that was not short enough and he ended up inside-edging it on to his stumps.
Mumbai's surprisingly spread-out fields allowed the MP lower order to stretch the score from 139 for 7 to 192, and the defensiveness carried into their batting. Kaustubh Pawar, who initially looked like getting out any moment, hung in resolutely though, showing his team-mates that it was possible to grind out runs on what turned out to be an excellent wicket for a knockout game.
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