Parthiv hundred leads ROI fightback
A fifth consecutive hundred from Parthiv Patel, coupled with Manoj Tiwary's unbeaten half-century, pulled things back for Rest of India to leave the Irani Trophy match poised for a tight finish, both in terms of the first-innings lead and an overall result. At stumps, ROI trailed Mumbai by 161 runs with six wickets in hand and three days to go.
Things looked different at 64 for 3 and 150 for 4, in response to Mumbai's 453, but Parthiv and Tiwary batted aggressively without taking any undue risks. The flatness of the pitch, the inconsistent bowling, and the odd lapses in the field helped too.
Parthiv, unbeaten on 161 - three short of his first-class best - was the hero of the day, carrying forward the form he has shown with India A (591 runs in five innings, with four centuries). Even as wickets fell around him he refused to get bogged down and continued with his positive strokeplay, also making the most of two reprieves. First, Prashant Naik missed what would have been a spectacular catch at second slip, even before Parthiv was set; then, on 20, Ajinkya Rahana's dive got in the way of what should have been an easy catch for second gully from an edge off Rajesh Verma. Apart from those two chances, Parthiv looked extremely comfortable.
He drove with ease and was especially strong off anything short, pulling and cutting with comfort. He was served plenty of deliveries which were straight and full, and he duly flicked them away with deft wristwork. Patel brought up his hundred with a leg glance off Ajit Agarkar. It came off only 120 balls with 18 fours, only one of which was less than convincing, when he was beaten in flight by Ramesh Powar, but went ahead with the shot and cleared the infield.
When Mumbai turned completely defensive with a 6-3 legside field, Patel made room to hit Powar through the covers for back-to-back boundaries. This forced another field change and he got back to working the singles. Overall, he completely dominated the bowlers, never letting them bowl at him.
Tiwary proved a perfect partner to Parthiv, controlling his natural aggressive game and not competing with Parthiv for quick scoring. His contribution to their 142-run partnership was just 56. Tiwary, dismissed by a short snorter in the last 50-over game against South Africa A, was greeted with short-pitched stuff and two fielders deep on the leg side. Yet all the bowlers could extract was one false shot, off the toe end of the bat, which still cleared mid-on for three runs. That miscue aside Tiwary also edged a faster one from Powar that wicketkeeper Omkar Gurav failed to hold on to.
Tiwary got to his half-century minutes before stumps with an inside-out boundary off Iqbal Abdulla, the left-arm orthodox spinner, who had resorted to bowling outside leg stump from over the stumps. In his next over, the penultimate of the day, Tiwary stepped down and hit a six over long-off.
ROI were struggling when Tiwary joined Parthiv just before tea. They were 64 for 3 when Suresh Raina was bowled by Verma for 17 and 150 for 4 when Subramaniam Badrinath, who was impressive in building an 84-run stand with Parthiv, was adjudged lbw to an Abdulla delivery that would have slid down the leg side. Badrinath hit four fours and one six to cow corner off Powar in his 29.
ROI's start had been poor too. Opener Aakash Chopra, after leaving alone a string of wide deliveries from Verma, played at one that held its line instead of coming in. The catch, taken at third slip by Naik, was referred to the third umpire. While the replays didn't conclusively suggest it was a clean catch, the umpires ruled Chopra out. Just before lunch, Agarkar trapped Mohammad Kaif as he played across the line to an in-coming delivery and missed.
The morning session had belonged completely to Mumbai. Not only did they take two early wickets, they had also frustrated ROI in the field, with the last two wickets adding 68 and surviving 80 minutes. Resuming at 385 for 8, Powar and Abdulla started from where they had left off on the first day. mixing good shots with streaky ones as ROI struggled to achieve a breakthrough. Powar square cut the first ball of the morning - a gentle long-hop from Ranadeb Bose - for four before helping himself to another boundary in the over. Powar hit six fours and a six in his 50-ball 45 before edging a late-cut off Ishant Sharma.
Abdulla played with soft hands, choosing placement over power and cover driving both Munaf Patel and Sharma with ease. After Powar's dismissal, Abdulla found a perfect foil in Verma, who held up one end well. Abdulla became more aggressive, welcoming Pragyan Ojha's left-arm spin with a six over long-on and bringing up his maiden half-century with another clean, straight six off Ojha. Apart from one cheeky boundary, there was no element of the unorthodox to Abdulla's batting.
Legspinner Amit Mishra, who bowled only eight overs yesterday, ended the 43-run last-wicket stand when Verma padded up to a straight delivery. Abdulla remained unbeaten on 56 from 63 deliveries. After the battering the ROI bowlers received yesterday, there wasn't much improvement to speak of. By the end of the day, though, Parthiv and Tiwary had ensured that ROI had plenty to look forward to on the third day.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine