Jaffer breaks record, gives Mumbai lead
Mumbai 308 for 5 (Jaffer 82, Yadav 64) lead Punjab 226 (Bipul 68, Sandhu 5-66) by 82 runs
Wasim Jaffer became the highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy and, along with the belligerent Suryakumar Yadav, steered Mumbai past Punjab's first-innings total during a typically elegant knock. Punjab toiled all day but were blunted by Mumbai's ultra-defensive approach in the first session, and later by Jaffer's and Yadav's aggression. With Saurashtra and Rajasthan in strong positions in their games, Punjab's chances of making the quarter-finals were slim.
After losing fast bowler Aavishkar Salvi's services in the third over of the game, Mumbai were also a batsman short because wicketkeeper Sushant Marathe had injured his groin while diving to collect a delivery on day one. Punjab's three medium-pacers moved the ball around on the grassy pitch, making the first session difficult for Mumbai's openers. Kaustubh Pawar and Praful Waghela managed only 55 runs in the 31 overs.
The openers were given very little to drive, and they were tested with movement from just short of a length. A few edges fell short of the slip cordon. Pawar hit his first boundary off his 76th delivery and Waghela matched him for stodginess. Harmeet Singh, who was the most economical Punjab bowler, finally produced an outside edge that carried to first slip to dismiss Waghela. Jaffer's arrival, however, shook the innings from its slumber.
Jaffer took time to judge the pace of the wicket, leaving a lot of deliveries outside off stump as lunch approached. He came back full of purpose after the break, and targeted his favoured areas of square leg and midwicket. Effortless flicks off the pads and wristy drives between mid-on and midwicket got the score moving, and got Pawar to abandon his defensive approach as well. The opener could not carry on, though, and Hiken Shah also went caught behind to Navdeep Sidhu, who deserved some reward for getting consistent away shape and nip.
Yadav, a powerful hitter, stuck to what comes to him naturally and went after the spinners Rahul and Bipul Sharma. He repeatedly charged out to Rahul and lofted him with the turn over mid-off and extra cover. The left-armer Bipul was given the same treatment, which forced him to change his angle to over the stumps. Yadav responded by paddling him fine for another four. Anything short was pulled with disdain. The presence of deep midwicket and deep square leg did not bother him.
Jaffer went past his former team-mate Amol Muzumdar's tournament record with a classy four to the midwicket boundary off Rahul, the stroke also bringing up his fifty. Just when it looked like Jaffer and Yadav would build a big lead for Mumbai, Rahul had Jaffer missing an off-drive and an alert Uday Kaul removed the bails after the batsman had dragged his foot outside the crease. The dismissal had no effect on Yadav, who continued to smash the bowling, swinging length deliveries from outside off over midwicket.
Yadav went past Abhishek Nayar as the highest run-scorer for Mumbai this season but fell lbw, missing an attempted dab to third man off a Harmeet delivery that came in. Mumbai were not ahead by much at 257 for 5, but Ramesh Powar clubbed five fours, walking down the track and lofting the medium-pacers down the ground, to take them past 300. With Salvi and Marathe unlikely to take further part in the match, Mumbai will want the lead to go well beyond 100.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo