Chavan ton virtually shuts door on MP
Madhya Pradesh 250 for 3 (N Ojha 85, M Mishra 61*, Birla 55) and
192 (Birla 63, Kulkarni 5-74) lead Mumbai 434 (K Pawar 161, Chavan
102*, Sudhindra 5-96) by eight runs
Mumbai's ruthlessness was on display as their last pair stretched their lead to a 242, almost taking them to the semi-final barring an improbable second-innings collapse. Ankeet Chavan made his maiden first-class hundred, at No. 9, and added 68 with No. 11 Balwinder Sandhu to dash whatever little hopes of a comeback remained in the MP camp. The hosts batted fluently in their second innings to knock off the deficit, but it's very difficult to come back once a team concedes such a big lead in a four-day knockout game.
Mumbai had been 60 for 5, 139 for 6 and 217 for 7 at various stages but after Kaustubh Pawar had bailed them out of trouble yesterday, Chavan further demoralized MP today. The hosts had removed Pawar and Ramesh Powar early in the morning, the latter falling leg-before to give the tireless TP Sudhindra a deserved five-for. MP's openers had begun stretching but Chavan and Sandhu batted with the assuredness of a top-order pair.
Chavan's straight drives stood out as he kept forcing the MP fast bowlers down the ground. A dab to the third-man boundary brought up an emotional hundred as Chavan held his arms aloft, punched the air hard and waved his bat to the Mumbai dressing room. Sandhu, who drove confidently through the off side after some jittery moments, finally played a heave befitting his position in the batting order to be bowled for 24. By that time, Mumbai's last four wickets had batted for 83.5 overs, nearly a day's play.
MP had no choice but to score quickly, which they did, the Mumbai attack not troubling them at all on a pitch that had flattened out. Naman Ojha continued a prolific season with the kind of free-spirited batting that is his wont, something that was surprisingly lacking in the first innings. He began by swinging Powar for consecutive sixes over mid-on in his first over of the game. Wasim Jaffer went back to fetch the ball and kept himself at long-on for the next delivery. This time Ojha made some room and lofted Powar over mid-off, who also went back immediately.
With runs flowing now, Mumbai set defensive fields for the remainder of the day. Jaffer chose to bowl Powar and Chavan ahead of his third quick Kshemal Waingankar. Chavan ended up bowling his slow left-armers for 24 of the 64 overs MP batted, operating from over the stumps with short fine leg, deep square leg, deep midwicket, long-on and long-off in place. Ojha still managed to score runs against Chavan, stepping out and driving him inside out through extra cover repeatedly. The restrictive line finally got to him, though, when he stepped out and swung Chavan straight to midwicket to throw away what would have been his fourth century of the tournament.
Udit Birla came in and punched and swept his way to his second aggressive fifty of the match. With Mishra driving as well as he had in the first innings, the pair soon took MP into the lead. Their prospects of setting a reasonable target for Mumbai tomorrow were dealt a blow, though, when Birla went caught behind to Suryakumar Yadav in the penultimate over of the day. How MP would wish they had batted as confidently in the first innings as they did today.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo