Mumbai v Maharashtra, Ranji Trophy, quarter-finals, 2nd day, Mumbai January 9, 2014

Tailenders, Thakur build Mumbai's advantage

Maharashtra 219 for 7 (Bawne 84, Jadhav 51, Thakur 4-62) trail Mumbai 402 (Yadav 120, Indulkar 82) by 183 runs

Resistance from Mumbai's tailenders, followed by an inspired spell from Shardul Thakur allowed Mumbai to put one foot in the Ranji Trophy semi-finals even before the halfway stage of their quarter-final tie against Maharashtra. At the end of the second day's play at the Wankhede Stadium, Maharashtra were struggling at 219 for 7 in response to Mumbai's 402.

With the visitors still 183 runs adrift with just three wickets in hand, the match is all but over unless the Maharashtra bowlers take a cue from Mumbai's tail and bowling unit, and stage an unexpected comeback.

Thakur, the young medium-pacer from the western suburbs, was easily the star of the day. He surprised not only the opposition batsmen but even some of his team-mates with the serious bounce and pace that he generated. His quickest delivery clocked 138 kph - a heartening sign for Mumbai's pace attack which has seen seven new-ball bowlers being used, including the sparsely available Zaheer Khan and injured Dhawal Kulkarni.

Not many Indian domestic cricketers are used to playing such pace as whenever a bowler bowls so quick on a wicket that's conducive for pacers, the batsmen tend to feel the heat. Maharashtra's fancied batting line-up was no exception. The captain Rohit Motwani was the first to walk back, having been promoted up the order to accompany Harshad Khadiwale.

Motwani lasted just five balls and was trapped lbw after missing a straight full toss in Thakur's opening over, opening the floodgates for the hosts. With Thakur bowling his quickest, Mumbai captain Zaheer backed the seamer by putting in place an attacking field, with none of the nine fielders in front of the wickets. Maharashtra subsequently wilted under the pace and pressure.

Khadiwale, this season's highest run-getter, was the next to go after edging Thakur to Vinit Indulkar at third slip in the sixth over of the innings. In the very next over, Vijay Zol shouldered a delivery from Zaheer only to see the ball clipping the top of off stump, leaving Maharashtra at 24 for 3. Maharashtra's next pair, however, led a mini recovery.

While Kedar Jadhav, who is reputed for his ferocious batting, adopted a cautious approach, Ankit Bawne waged a counterattack. Bawne was lucky to have been dropped on 5 by Wasim Jaffer at second slip, and he made full use of the missed chance by hitting Javed Khan for four well-timed fours to the off side in an over. He followed that up by dancing down the wicket to hoick Abhishek Nayar over long-on, with the ball almost landing in the second tier of the stands.

Thakur, who shed 12 kilos in the off-season, however came back for a second spell and immediately forced a nick off Bawne's willow to Indulkar again. However, replays showed the bowler didn't have any part of his foot behind the line, thus handing Bawne yet another reprieve. The youngster made full use of it, reaching his fifty in just 52 balls.

Just as the fourth-wicket association between Bawne and Jadhav, who during the innings became the second batsman to score 900 runs this season, started to raise some concerns for Mumbai, the 115-run partnership was broken by the left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar. Jadhav could only edge one that turned sharply after pitching outside leg, and Aditya Tare was lucky to pouch the ball after it ricocheted off his pads.

Zaheer didn't take long to reintroduce Thakur into the attack, and the bowler immediately got rid of the dangerous Bawne- caught behind the wicket- 16 runs shy of what would have been a brave century. While Thakur added Sangram Atitkar's scalp to his kitty in a third spell that read 5-0-17-2, Javed was rewarded for some disciplined bowling when he dismissed Chirag Khurana, thanks to an acrobatic catch at gully by Kaustubh Pawar.

"Shardul was the quickest bowler we have faced all this season," Bawne said later. "With him utilising the conditions favourably, batting became extremely difficult for us."

Had it not been for the Mumbai tail's resistance in the morning, Maharashtra may have fancied chasing a smaller total. Starting the day at 306 for 7, Iqbal Abdulla batted sensibly with Zaheer to add almost 100 to the total. Even though Abdulla ran out of partners one run shy of a deserving fifty, his crucial partnerships with Javed and Zaheer ensured that Maharashtra were set to face a daunting first-innings score.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on January 10, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    It was sad to see once the great Cricketing Team of Mumbai collapsing for 129! Even that was made possible thru' the efforts of Yadev, Abdullah & Thakur. While they are missing Rahane & Rohit Sharma, more is expected of Mumbai reserves than such lack lustre batting. In bowling again they will rely heavily on Thakur, ZAK & Abdullah. Abhishek Nayar was a huge disappointment in both bowling & batting. Maharashtra has a strong batting in Zol & Khadewale - who are still to be taken out. So from a certain defeat position at the end of day 2, Maharashtra are back in business again with strong chance of winning in a very evenly poised match. it is tough to expect the Maharashtra batting to fail twice after some fine bowling from their seamers put them back in the match.Can Mumbai bowlers rise to the occasion?

  • Himanshu on January 10, 2014, 11:47 GMT

    Too bad Maharashtra lost a wicket at the last over of the day. Would have been a massive psychological boost if they had ended the day without having lost a wicket. Still, the man who got out, Chirag Khurana, was the lowest scorer in this season among the Maharashtra top 6 batsmen. Hopefully the likes of Khadiwale, Zol and Jadhav take their team through to score one of the biggest upsets in recent memory against the defending champions.

  • Vidhu on January 10, 2014, 4:55 GMT

    It's worrying if Ranji batsmen have not faced bowling faster than 138 kmph. How will they cope when they face up someone like Mitchell Johnson at the next level who doesn't bowl slower than that!

  • Manoj on January 10, 2014, 4:13 GMT

    @ Patone I really agree, if dhoni had seen this pitch he would have called sreeni and the pitched would have been ploughed to make it spin friendly. Dhoni is the best captain for any spinner in india and a nightmare captain for our fast bowlers.

  • Patrick on January 10, 2014, 1:08 GMT

    I fear for the curator, may never work in India again! Pace, bounce, more than one slip in place, outrageous!!!!!!! Kudos to him it's conditions like these that India need more of at home if they are to ever develop rounded cricketers capable of winning a test on a pitch that isn't personally requested and stood over by that one trick pony groundskeeper Dhoni.

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 19:45 GMT

    Good job lads. Good to see more guys trying to bowl serious pace

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