Match evenly poised after Lad 74
Mumbai 252 for 6 (Lad 74, Jaffer 61, Nehra 2-16) v Delhi
On a wicket that aided the seamers all throughout the day, Mumbai and Delhi both would be happy with the score at the end of the first day's play in their Ranji Trophy Group A league tie at the Bandra Kurla Complex facility. Or both the camps will perhaps be a tad disappointed with their efforts.
Despite three batsmen scoring half-centuries - veteran Wasim Jaffer being the stand-out performer with a classy 61 - the Mumbai dressing room would be disappointed that none of them carried on and converted it into a big score. On the other hand, despite halting Jaffer's charge that had threatened to take the game away from the visitors, Delhi would rue their mediocre fielding, which resulted in two dropped catches. Thus, the match remained evenly poised, with Mumbai managing to put on 252 for 6 at stumps on the opening day.
While the day had plenty of action in the offing for the sparse crowd, both sides were dealt an injury blow prior to toss. Mumbai lost Dhawal Kulkarni, whose ODI call-up lasted barely few hours, due to a toe injury which made him unavailable for the match, as well as the upcoming ODI series against West Indies. Delhi too were handicapped, as pacer Sumit Narwal, who was the most successful bowler in Gujarat last week, injured his knee during a warm-up game of football minutes before toss.
However, both the sides appeared to be undeterred with the blows, as Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan chose to bat after winning the toss. Kaustubh Pawar and Aditya Tare both found it difficult to deal with the lateral movement and sizeable bounce extracted by the veteran Ashish Nehra and the impressive Parvinder Awana.
Run-scoring looked like a herculean task for both the openers, as they focused on seeing off the new ball. Pawar ran out of patience in the ninth over and a slash outside the off stump resulted in a catch to Mithun Manhas at gully to give Nehra his first scalp.
Coming in at No. 3, Jaffer survived a few anxious moments against Rajat Bhatia's accurate swing bowling. But once he had his eye in, and even with Tare struggling to score runs at the other end, Jaffer seemed to be playing on a different strip. On a wicket that kept bowlers interested all through the day, Jaffer - the record-holder for most runs and most centuries in the Ranji Trophy - unleashed all the strokes he had in his armory.
His supple wrists were on display when he flicked through square leg, one from Bhatia that pitched outside off stump. Then he showed his driving skills with elegant straight and cover driven boundaries. And once Pawan Suyal, who got a game due to Narwal's injury, came on after the drinks break, Jaffer went after him.
Jaffer used Suyal's pace to his advantage, pulling anything that was short in the arc between fine leg and midwicket. Eventually, it was the short ball that brought Jaffer's charge to an abrupt halt in the second session. Jaffer was taken aback with Awana's pace and bounce, and top-edged a pull for a regulation catch at square.
Had Virender Sehwag not dropped Tare in the slips minutes earlier, off the fourth ball of the post-lunch session, Delhi would have been all over their arch rivals. Tare may have added just 21 runs to the team's tally before eventually edging left-arm spinner Manan Sharma to captain Gautam Gambhir in the slip cordon, but more importantly, the Mumbai wicketkeeper-batsman survived the whole second session to give a confidence boost to newbie Siddhesh Lad.
Once Lad settled, he impressed with his compact technique and ability to leave the ball outside off. He seemed to be on course for a maiden hundred, but was undone late into the day's play, when he played a quicker one from Awana onto his stumps. That wicket came as a much-needed relief for Delhi who will now look to restrict Mumbai to below 300, and then hope for a strong showing from Gambhir and Sehwag on day two.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo