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The Report by Amol Karhadkar in Mumbai
December 9, 2012
Mumbai 69 for 1 trail Punjab 580 (Mandeep 211, Amitoze 91, Inder Singh 76) by 511 runs
Mandeep Singh made the most of the three catches Mumbai dropped on the first evening to score a century, and he converted it into his maiden double on the second day at the Wankhede Stadium. Riding on Mandeep's 211, and his 195-run partnership for the fifth wicket with the aggressive Amitoze Singh, Punjab amassed 580.
In reply, Mumbai openers Kaustubh Pawar and Aditya Tare started positively, before Tare offered a return catch to Manpreet Gony, the leader of Punjab's pace attack. Pawar was dropped by Mandeep at slip off Harbhajan Singh, and Ajinkya Rahane was bowled off a no-ball from Sandeep Sharma before he had scored. They then survived until stumps, with Mumbai on 69 for 1.
The last hour had plenty of action, but the day's highlight was in the first session. Mandeep, who had switched to a higher gear in the last session of the opening day, continued in the same way after resuming on 102. And Amitoze, who took guard after Punjab had lost Uday Kaul off the last ball of the previous day, lived up to his aggressive tag by targeting all the Mumbai bowlers.
If Mumbai were to have any hope of restricting to Punjab around 400, early wickets were essential. But once Mandeep and Amitoze, who is familiar with conditions at the Wankhede having been part of the Mumbai Indians set-up, added 36 in the first five overs, those hopes grew bleak.
When the fast bowlers pitched the ball up, it was driven with comfort; when they pitched short, it was pulled, by Mandeep in particular; when the spinners were introduced to control the scoring, the move backfired. Amitoze was especially severe on offspinner Ramesh Powar, who had four wickets in as many games this season. He hit Powar into the stands on either side of the sightscreen. Powar's figures in the first session were 5-0-50-0; Punjab scored 163 runs in 31.2 over and were 451 for 4 at lunch.
Mumbai seemed to change their plans after the break. Dhawal Kulkarni started to test Mandeep's strength by pitching it short with two men behind square on the leg side, and Ankeet Chavan began bowling over the wicket in order to restrict the run-flow.
That too was of no avail, initially. Mandeep bisected deep square leg and deep fine leg twice in succession in the first over of the session, he reverse swept Chavan in the next for the same results. Mandeep, who had failed to contribute in Punjab's first five games, then entered the 190s with an upper cut off Kulkarni.
Amitoze, meanwhile, closed in on what could have been his second first-class century with a six off Chavan over long-on. But it was not to be. The next ball, he tried to sweep Chavan, top-edged it and Kulkarni did the rest at deep square leg. The 195-run partnership, which came off just 217 deliveries in less than three hours, had put Punjab in the driver's seat.
Mandeep, on 193, survived some anxious moments as he repeatedly failed to connect his reverse-sweeps off Chavan, who was bowling outside leg stump with a packed on-side field. He brought up his double-century when Pawar dropped a catch off Ajit Agarkar. Mandeep was on 199 when he had his fourth reprieve. He hardly celebrated, though, because he had celebrated earlier, when the scoreboard operator had shown him on 200 when he was a run short.
Chavan was eventually rewarded for his relentless effort when Mandeep shouldered arms to a ball that crashed into off stump. Though the dismissal triggered a mini-collapse as Punjab lost three wickets for two runs, the damage had already been done. And the last two wickets added another 66 runs.
"I think Mumbai lost the plot with their fielding. They gave me three chances yesterday, and I could ensure it cost them dearly," Mandeep, who bettered his previous first-class best of 193 for India A in New Zealand earlier in the year, said. "Had they caught one of those catches last evening, perhaps they would have been able to pull things back by picking another couple of wickets. I have realised the importance of scoring big hundreds and the last two or three times, have been able to convert hundreds into big ones. Let's hope I carry on in the same vein."
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