Vijay and Abhinav flatten Mumbai
Rest of India surged ahead after two days of a deadlock courtesy an unbroken 171-run opening stand between M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund. Overnight run delayed the start and bad light brought an early end to proceedings but Sreesanth and Munaf, who took a five-for, made use of the early moisture to remove the Mumbai tail quickly before the ROI openers batted cautiously to stretch the lead to 201.
It was a dull grey day and the cricket, after a bright start, mirrored the ambience. There was nothing flashy in the approach of Vijay and Abhinav, who proceeded to grind out the Mumbai attack with their patience. There weren't too many memorable shots but that's probably what they set out to do: avoid risk especially in the absence of the indisposed Virender Sehwag, pile up the runs and strengthen ROI's grip on the game. Sure, there were couple of delightful drives and a few aggressive hits late in the evening from both but for the main part they nudged and pushed their way. The shot of the day was a lovely whipped on-drive from Vijay off Ajit Agarkar when he dispatched a full delivery from almost off stump to the wide midwicket boundary. Abhinav's best shot was a straight drive off Dhawal Kulkarni.
They didn't have any problems against the spinners; both lofted and cut to spread the field. Both lifted Powar to straight boundaries and while Vijay unfurled a few cuts against Iqbal Abdullah, Abhinav played his sweeps.
As the evening progressed they were almost on auto-pilot, scoring runs off the spinners without breaking into a sweat, but they had their share of problems early on against the new ball. Vijay was tentative against Kulkarni and was beaten a couple of times, pushing away from his body. He made his adjustments later when Kulkarni returned for a second spell, taking guard outside his crease and looking to stretch well forward to defend.
Abhinav was dropped off Kulkarni when he pushed a length delivery that straightened from round the stumps to first slip where Sahil Kukreja failed to snaffle it. He also edged a couple of wide deliveries from the unimpressive Rahil Sheikh, whose selection ahead of Saurabh Netravalkar seems just as odd in hindsight as it did prior to the game, but settled down soon to push ROI to a healthy position.
Just as they ended the day solidly, ROI had started the day brightly, courtesy their two seamers. Munaf got one to nip back in from outside off stump to peg back Ramesh Powar's middle stump before he got Kulkarni, who swung his bat around in search for some quick runs, heaving straight to long-off.
Munaf was well supported by Sreesanth, who started the demolition job in his first over of the day with a cracking incutter against Vinayak Samant that jagged in from outside off to take out the leg stump. He then bounced out Iqbal Abdullah to finish with a three-wicket haul. The sidelight of the morning came when Kulkarni exchanged a few words with Sreesanth but appeared to later apologise to the bowler after the umpires stepped in quickly to diffuse the situation. For the rest of the day there was no drama as two determined batsmen increased Mumbai's agony.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo