Hiken Shah's best leaves Odisha in daze
Odisha 79 for 3 (Natraj 45*, Mallick 28*) trail Mumbai 501 for 9 dec (Shah 170, Jaffer 143, Mohanty 3-73, Dhiraj 3-117) by 422 runs
After scoring a tentative 67 on the first day in the shadow of Wasim Jaffer, Hiken Shah had said that scoring opportunities were rare as Odisha bowlers stuck to their lines. On the second day, there wasn't much of a change from Odisha, but Shah infused his game - and Mumbai's innings - with much-needed positivity as the home team declared the innings on 501 for 9, 16 minutes into the third session, before their seamers carved up the visitors' top order.
Shah outscored Jaffer comfortably in the 50 runs the two batsmen added together on the second morning. During this period, the batsmen maintained the defensive approach from yesterday as the pair trudged towards 300. Jaffer survived the second chance in his innings when he edged a Biplab Samantray delivery between the wicketkeeper and first slip fielder to move to 143. However, in the next over, he casually cut a short and wide one from Deepak Behera, straight into the hands of the deep point fielder, bringing an obdurate stand of 222 to an unexpected end.
At 292 for 3 and without the comforting presence of Jaffer, Mumbai were still far from safety. Shah's change of approach from there on, however, was remarkable. He was on 98 when Jaffer was dismissed, but in the same over, he drove uppishly to the cover boundary to register his sixth first-class century and his first of this season. The aggression that had remained hidden till then started oozing out, and it left Odisha dazed.
In the 13.1 overs after Jaffer's dismissal and till lunch, Mumbai's total inflated by 86 runs, with Shah scoring 65 of them. Suryakant Yadav, known for his attacking strokeplay, was a mere spectator, scoring only 19 in that period. Shah drove on the up off the back foot and front foot and started playing aerial shots too. In one Suryakant Pradhan over, he picked up a boundary and a six in the midwicket region off identical balls.
Just like Jaffer though, Shah also fell against the run of play, trapped lbw by an otherwise profligate Dhiraj Singh after hitting a career-best 170. The 99-run stand for the fourth wicket had only taken 95 balls and changed the momentum for Mumbai. The value of those runs became obvious as the rest of Mumbai's innings meandered aimlessly till the declaration came.
In between, Pravin Tambe, walking in at No 7, confirmed Jaffer's pre-match faith in his batting ability with two crisp drives through cover, holding the pose after the second one, but his long awaited debut with the ball came late in the day when the outfield had been entirely engulfed by the shadows.
Odisha had 21 overs to survive till the end and Tambe was called in to bowl the 19th. His first ball was a long hop, possibly a manifestation of his nervousness, but he had a loud appeal for lbw turned down off his third ball after bowling a skidder. He bowled a steady second over and all eyes will be on him when Mumbai take the field on the third day.
Mumbai's seamers had already ensured that Odisha will have a tough time. Javed Khan charged in with a run-up almost twice as long as Basant Mohanty's and reaped immediate rewards too. Girjia Rout belatedly tried to take his bat out of the way of an outswinger, but the ball skimmed the face to end up at first slip. Four overs later, Aditya Tare pouched a catch off Javed as a bouncer flicked the gloves.
Shardul Thakur inflicted further damage, removing Govind Podder - caught by the keeper down the leg side - before hitting Samantray on the head with a bumper. The Odisha captain asked for the physio, but then decided to leave the field.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo