Jaffer gives Mumbai a healthy lead
Mumbai 287 for 6 (Jaffer 132) lead Saurashtra 148 (Kulkarni 4-24) by 139 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Wasim Jaffer's record-breaking century confirmed the first-innings lead for Mumbai but the widely expected barrage of runs didn't arrive from the home side, allowing a spirited Saurashtra a sliver of a chance to come back in the Ranji final. Mumbai are still in charge though not as emphatically as they would have liked.
Saurashtra showed the sort of fighting attitude that has lifted the low-profile team to the finals. This was highlighted in the 34th over when despite several close calls for the batsmen in the morning session, Saurashtra were still looking for the first breakthrough. Jaffer had just struck three successive fours in the previous over to take Mumbai to 75 for 0. There was no wilting under the strain, though, and when Rahul Dave made a diving stop at cover, as many as six fielders ran up to him to give a congratulatory pat. Two balls later, Siddharth Trivedi had the opener Kaustubh Pawar caught and bowled.
Aditya Tare, another heavy scorer this season, followed soon after, rousing the Sunday crowd from the stupor of a session of slow-going cricket. The man most of the fans were in to see, Sachin Tendulkar, walked out to the familiar chants of "Sachin, Sachin." Tendulkar's record in Ranji finals is as fearsome as Mumbai's, and once he survived a few anxious minutes early on, Saurashtra looked set for a long haul as Jaffer was also looking fluent and settled.
Tendulkar got going with an effortless off drive between the non-striker and mid-off and a disdainful flick through midwicket next ball. When he paddle-swept Kamlesh Makvana's first ball in the next over, the crowd was at its most vocal.
They were silenced not long after, though. You'd think over the course of a 25-season career, there would be few 'firsts' left for Tendulkar. Till today, though, he had never been run-out in a Ranji match. He was sent back by Jaffer after he had pushed the ball towards point but couldn't beat the throw from Makvana.
That was the one low point in a day to savour for Jaffer. He claimed two prestigious Ranji Trophy records - most runs and hundreds in the tournament - and also went past 16,000 first-class runs. With most of the other specialist batsmen not contributing anything substantial, Jaffer's hundred was the cornerstone of Mumbai's innings. It will help Jaffer put aside the disappointment of making just one run in Mumbai's two knock-out matches last season when their campaign ground to a halt in the semi-finals. Even more praiseworthy is that Jaffer's recent run of three centuries in four matches have come despite the fact that his father is in hospital following a heart attack.
It wasn't Jaffer at his best of his innings, though. He survived a close lbw call on his first delivery and was reprieved after a loud caught-behind appeal early on the second morning. There was another life for him when the wicketkeeper Sagar Jogiyani broke the stumps before the ball had arrived, with Jaffer out of his ground.
However, there were some glorious strokes as well. He took on the gentle left-arm spin of Dharmendrasinh Jadeja in the morning after being patient for close to two hours, getting to fifty with a nonchalant six over long-on. There was also a classic drive past extra cover off Saurya Sanandiya to bring up Mumbai's hundred. He looked more and more difficult to dislodge as his innings progressed and when he was finally dismissed for 132, it was through a poor lbw decision when the ball looked to be sliding down.
Abhishek Nayar had provided Jaffer company for a while, using the sweep repeatedly to race to 26 off 35 before he swung a harmless Makvana delivery to midwicket. Ajit Agarkar was also dismissed cheaply and with Mumbai at 237 for 6, Saurashtra were dreaming of a comeback.
Mumbai, as usual, found a player to ease their nerves. Hiken Shah stuck around for more than an hour to make an unbeaten 41, and put on an unbroken 50-run stand with the first day's hero Dhawal Kulkarni. Saurashtra didn't help their cause by delaying taking the new ball till the 88th over instead of going for the kill earlier itself. That allowed the lead to swell to 139, and left the Mumbai dressing room a more relaxed place.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo