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Amol Karhadkar in Mumbai
January 8, 2014
Mumbai 306 for 7 (Suryakumar 120, Indulkar 82) v Maharashtra
A wayward start followed by tight bowling. Uninspired batting by the top order on a pitch conducive for pace bowling. A fighting partnership involving a man making a comeback after six years and another who has a knack for throwing his wicket away. A dropped catch and a missed stumping. And then a late flurry of wickets.
The first day's play of the Ranji Trophy quarter-final between Mumbai and Maharashtra was a classical first-class match day. Even though the scoreboard at the end of the day's play might reflect the teams are even, in what is a clash of arch rivals, Mumbai will feel they had got out of a hole at the Wankhede Stadium after being put in to bat.
However, had it not been for Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani's two missed chances behind the stumps, Maharashtra would have had the upper hand on the opening day. Motwani first missed a Suryakumar Yadav stumping off left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar, moments after the batsman had completed his fifty. Suryakumar went on to raise 120 before succumbing to the new ball.
Soon after the missed stumping, Motwani failed to latch on to an edge from Vinit Indulkar off offspinner Chirag Khurana. Kedar Jadhav, at first slip, also couldn't latch on to the ball, which ricocheted off the wicketkeeper's gloves. Indulkar was on 63 then. Even though the batsman, who justified his recall into Mumbai's team after six years, scored only more 19 runs before he perished just before the second ball was due, he and Suryakumar had added 54 runs in no time in between.
Barring a blemish each, both the batsmen excelled in trying circumstances. When Suryakumar walked out to join Indulkar in the fourth over after lunch, Mumbai were 101 for 4. With Kaustubh Pawar, Aditya Tare, Wasim Jaffer and Abhishek Nayar having been dismissed thanks to some disciplined bowling by the three-pronged seam attack, Mumbai were staring at their umpteenth batting collapse of the season.
While Indulkar continued to play the role of the sheet anchor, Suryakumar started doing what he does best - playing shots. He raced to his fifty in 63 balls, but then almost threw it away by stepping out to Darekar. Once he was given a reprieve, though, he didn't let his guard down and tore apart the Maharashtra bowlers in the third session. The post-lunch session had the addition of just 75 runs off 27.3 runs; the first 15 overs after tea had 90.
Not only did Suryakumar display his driving skills in plenty, he showed his ability to improvise when he hit three boundaries in a Shrikant Mundhe over, the last two of those being delicate late cuts that raced to the boundary through the slip cordon. And it was yet another cut off Mundhe in the 73rd over that ended Suryakumar's prolonged wait for a three-digit score, and he erupted into a Shahid Afridi-like celebration.
At that point, Maharashtra were in danger of being batted out in the first innings. However, medium-pacer Anupam Sanklecha was introduced and provided a late lift. In the 79th over, he moved one slightly away from Indulkar and the batsman edged it to Motwani who didn't falter this time. This prompted a mini-collapse as Mumbai lost three wickets, including Indulkar and Suryakumar who edged second ball after the new ball was taken by Sanklecha to second slip, for 16 runs in 20 balls. Iqbal Abdulla and Zaheer Khan then saw off the last 11 minutes and avoided further damage.
Earlier in the morning, Sanklecha and Samad Fallah got carried away with a green track and bowled too full, wasting the new ball. However, once they got over their nerves, both came back with a bang supported by Mundhe and Harshad Khadiwale's part-time medium-pace. Sanklecha, who changed ends and came on from the Tata End for his second spell, and Khadiwale bowled five successive maidens to Tare and Jaffer after Pawar's tame dismissal. And they were rewarded with Tare faltering while attempting a flick - he lobbed to mid-on. Mundhe got the prize scalp of Jaffer on the stroke of lunch when Jaffer was late on a pull shot that landed in Ankit Bawne's hands at mid-on.
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