Mumbai v Gujarat, Ranji Trophy, 9th round, 1st day December 29, 2012

Bowlers give Mumbai fine start

Mumbai 24 for 1 trail Gujarat 244 (Parthiv 101, Chavan 3-54) by 220 runs

Zaheer Khan had a fruitful first day as captain of a first-class side, as Mumbai bowled out Gujarat for 244 in what is a virtual pre-quarter-final. Had hosts Mumbai not lost opener Kaustubh Pawar in the last over of the day, the smile on Zaheer's face at stumps would have been even wider.

It didn't come as a surprise when Zaheer, leading the team in the absence of regular captain Ajit Agarkar who was ruled out with a groin injury, opted to bowl on a sporting track with a sprinkling of live grass at the Dr DY Patil Sports Stadium. And when Zaheer trapped Smit Patel, one of the stars of India's victorious Under-19 World Cup campaign, in front of wickets, Mumbai would have hoped to run through the Gujarat top order.

However, rookies Samit Gohel and Bhargav Merai frustrated them for more than an hour. Not only did both the right-hand batsmen scored freely at the start of their innings, but they defended well, leaving balls outside off stump with relative ease. As a result, by the time Dhawal Kulkarni forced Gohel into a false shot, Mumbai had used as five bowlers.

At 89 for 2, captain Parthiv Patel took guard. And by the time he was dismissed as the penultimate Gujarat wicket, the seasoned batsman had scored 101 off the 154 runs that Gujarat added since his arrival at the crease. Had Merai not attempted a risky single and fallen short of the crease at the non-striker's end when Kulkarni's direct hit shattered the woodwork in the last over before lunch, Gujarat would have had the advantage going into the break.

However, once Mumbai had got an opening, they lived up to their tag of domestic powerhouse by breaking through at regular intervals. As a result, the 64-run association for the second wicket between Gohel and Merai turned out to be the only noteworthy partnership of the innings.

While wickets were tumbling at the other end, Parthiv appeared to be playing a completely different match. En route his third century of the season, and the top of this season's run charts, the left-hand batsman displayed his cutting and driving abilities in abundance. His standout stroke was a straight driven boundary off Kulkarni soon after his arrival at the crease.

Once Mumbai had broken into the longish tail of Gujarat batting, Parthiv switched gears and targeted left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan, who was flighting the ball on the opening day for the first time in the season. He first charged down the pitch to hit him for a boundary over mid-off, and in his next over, drove him through the covers for the same result.

The only blemish during Parthiv's knock came when he was on 64. Having surpassed Ravindra Jadeja's tally of 794 runs to emerge as the leading run-getter, Parthiv nicked Kulkarni but Hiken Shah dropped a regulation catch at first slip. Nevertheless, with little support from the other end, it was a commendable effort from the Gujarat captain.

"Obviously the additional motivation is to return to the Indian team, so I try and score big. Thankfully, it has been paying off all through the season," Parthiv said after stumps. "It is a challenging wicket but I think we were about 100 runs short of what would have been an ideal first-innings score here."

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo