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The Report by Amol Karhadkar in Valsad
January 1, 2014
Gujarat 253 and 67 for 3 need 108 runs to beat Mumbai 154 and 273 (H Shah 48, Bumrah 4-68)
Mumbai staged a fightback on the penultimate day of their do-or-die Group A league tie against Gujarat, a resistance that was surprising considering the current balance and form of the young side. Setting Gujarat a target of 175 to win, Mumbai took three wickets and, with the hosts still 108 runs behind with seven wickets in hand, the equation for both teams on the fourth day is simple: the team that wins will join Karnataka and Punjab in the quarter-finals from the group.
Within domestic cricket, Mumbai are famous for their never-say-die attitude and that mindset came to the fore on the third day when, barring the last half hour, virtually everything went Mumbai's way at the Sardar Patel Stadium. When Hiken Shah - who was batting despite having split his webbing while attempting a catch on the second day - and Iqbal Abdulla took to the crease, with a pitch that was aiding spinners from the far end, the hosts were expected to wind up the Mumbai innings without much fuss. A few optimists from the host association also hoped that Gujarat would complete their third victory against Mumbai, the first in 36 years, with more than a day to spare.
But Abdulla and Shah fought back. While Shah batted patiently, Abdulla came out all guns blazing. His aggressive style of play meant that he lived dangerously and the first chance he offered was put down by Akshar Patel off Jasprit Bumrah's bowling. Abdulla capitalised on the reprieve and cleared the deficit with a lofted drive over mid-on off Rakesh Dhurv. He followed it up with two more fours, another lofted on-drive and a square cut, in the same over.
Just as Abdulla was gaining in confidence, he gave it away with an ambitious shot. Even though mid-on was pushed back three-quarters to the boundary rope, Abdulla tried to clear it off Dhurv and ended up offering a practice catch to Akshar. In came Doraiswamy Subramanian, who had also hurt his palm while fielding and needed stitches. Despite having scored just 29 runs in his three first-class innings, Subramanian batted confidently.
Although Mumbai's scoring rate declined, Subramanian's 32-run partnership with Shah not only doubled the side's lead but also frustrated the Gujarat bowlers. As Shah and Subramanian played stoically, the Gujarat bowlers started getting defensive. The trend continued even after a straight one from Akshar kept low and had Subramanian plumb in front of the wickets.
At that stage, Mumbai were 64 runs ahead of Gujarat and Shah had four tail-end batsmen - three three of whom who could bat a bit - for company. Tambe earned a few scratchy boundaries against the tiring attack and, although Shah perished trying to shield him, the last three wickets added 55 runs, which may eventually prove to be the difference between qualification and elimination for the teams.
Gujarat were eventually set a target of 175, which was "at least 40 runs more than what we would have liked" according to Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel. To regain lost ground, Gujarat required a steady start. However, Abdulla, who opened the bowling, struck in his first over. Substitute Sagar Kerkar dived forward to splendidly latch on to an uppish drive by Samit Gohel, the only half-centurion of the match.
The trend of great catching continued with Abdulla's one-handed return catch, to dismiss Smit Patel, and Suryakumar Yadav's effort at leg-slip to get rid of Parthiv Patil. At 28 for 3, Gujarat were struggling and, to tackle the Mumbai spin troika, they promoted Akshar ahead of Venugopal Rao and Manpreet Juneja.
The ploy worked as Akshar's five boundaries meant Gujarat scored quick runs in the last half hour. Aditya Tare conceded 10 byes off spinners, which didn't help Mumbai's cause, ensuring that neither team has an advantage on the last day.
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