Jaffer's 50th ton holds Mumbai together
Mumbai 254 for 8 (Jaffer 133*) v Vidarbha
Wasim Jaffer's landmark 50th first-class hundred rescued Mumbai on the first day of their maiden Ranji Trophy clash against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium. Riding on Jaffer's unbeaten 133, Mumbai ended the opening day of the Group A league clash at 254 for 8.
With the Vidarbha pace troika of Sandeep Singh, Umesh Yadav and Shrikant Wagh extracting considerable movement off the Wankhede pitch, Jaffer, who opened the innings with Kaustubh Pawar, was cautious in the morning session. Once he had his eye in, he targeted the Vidarbha bowlers at the start of each of the next two sessions.
In the third over after lunch, he charged down the track to hit offspinner Akshay Wakhare straight over his head and towards the sightscreen for the only six of the day. That forced the Vidarbha bowlers to focus on giving Jaffer a single and try and attack batsmen at the other end. Even after tea, Jaffer hit three boundaries off Umesh - a trademark flick off his wrist through midwicket, a pull behind square leg and a glide though slip cordon to the third man rope - in the third over after tea to enter the nineties.
He reached the landmark with a tap behind square off Wakhare and raised his bat in elation. He then shielded No. 10 batsman Vishal Dabholkar for most of the last hour despite suffering from cramps.
While Jaffer gave an example of how to pace the innings, his young team-mates squandered an opportunity to help Mumbai put on a big total. Pawar slashed Singh straight to Wakhare at point in the third over, while Ajinkya Rahane, returning to Ranji after missing their last two games due to the Tests against West Indies, edged one from Singh that moved away from him to Hemang Badani at first slip soon after.
Singh, whose first spell that read 5-3-6-2, then changed ends and removed Siddhesh Lad, who had come into the game on the back of successive fifties against Delhi in Mumbai's previous match. Lad tried to drive Singh on the up, only to edge it to Faiz Fazal at second slip. Abhishek Nayar then avoided further damage before lunch.
However, soon after lunch, Nayar tried a slog sweep off Wakhare, missed the ball and it crashed into the stumps. Aditya Tare, who scored a second-innings century while opening the innings against Delhi, also attempted a sweep off Wakhare to be trapped in front. Suryakumar Yadav, the last of the recognised batsmen, then threw his wicket away as he drove left-arm spinner Ravi Jangid straight into Umesh's palms at mid-off.
At 161 for 6, Vidarbha had an opportunity to gain the upper hand. However, Shardul Thakur then added 58 runs with Jaffer for the seventh wicket before being splendidly caught at short extra cover by substitute Urvesh Patel off Jangid.
Once Zaheer Khan played Jangid on to his stumps soon after, Jaffer farmed the strike for most of the last hour. Still, he took a full toll on the Vidarbha bowlers, especially Umesh, who didn't have the best of the days with the ball. Two of Jaffer's nine boundaries off Umesh were sweetly timed pull shots towards the fag end of the day, when Vidarbha opted to take the new ball after the 86th over.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo