Balaji burst leaves Mumbai on the rocks
Mumbai 121 for 6 (Yadav 52, Hiken Shah 21*, Kulkarni 5*, Balaji 3-16) trail Tamil Nadu 359 (Prasanna 104, Mahesh 67, Sandhu 5-88) by 238 runs
Aggressive and accurate bowling helped Tamil Nadu flatten Mumbai on the second day at the Wankhede Stadium. Six of the hosts' batsmen were back in the dressing-room before the total could cross the three-figure mark. This after Tamil Nadu's lower order had added 220 runs for the last four wickets to frustrate Mumbai and take the visitors to 359 in their first innings. With two days to go Mumbai have only four wickets remaining and are still trailing by 238 runs.
Tamil Nadu had watched closely the mistakes their opponents had committed in the field over the first four-and-a-quarter sessions, and learned from them. Their captain L Balaji set the tone by deploying attacking fields for Mumbai's new opening pair of Kaustubh Pawar and Onkar Gurav. It was the seventh combination Mumbai had fielded this season due to injury and other constraints, and it did not work.
Pawar was nicely set up by Balaji, who had three slips and a gully for him initially, and then also brought in a short leg. Pawar grew defensive and poked at an outswinger away from his body to edge and give Dinesh Karthik an easy catch behind the stumps. The wicket came off the last ball of Balaji's third over. Off the first ball of his fourth, Balaji induced another edge, this time from Onkar Gurav, who was forced to play at a length ball that shaped away late and took the outside edge on its way to M Vijay at first slip.
Balaji made full use of the new ball, making the batsman play at every delivery. Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai captain, survived the hat-trick delivery but three balls later was a victim of umpire K Hariharan's second poor lbw decision in two days. Jaffer moved in line with his off stump to defend a delivery that was fuller in length and straightened after pitching. An inside edge trickled onto the pad, just above the knee roll, and the ball went towards gully. Balaji appealed for an lbw but there were clearly two noises and the height was questionable too. What made the decision look even worse was the fact that K Vasudevadas, the gully fielder, who obviously knew there was an edge, had charged in and thrown himself forward in an attempt to take the catch. Jaffer was astonished and immediately showed his bat to the umpire, but the decision had been made and he was dismissed for a duck. Mumbai had lost three wickets in the space of six deliveries.
Earlier in the season Abhishek Nayar and Suryakumar Yadav had shown the patience and ability to stabilise innings after the top order had faltered. Both had scored double-centuries during the league stages, so Mumbai would have been hopeful of a comeback. Nayar brought up Mumbai's fifty with a push past point for four of J Kaushik, who shared the new ball with Balaji. In the next over, though, Nayar, who was returning after a two-match absence due to a finger injury, flirted with an unconventional stroke against the left-arm spin of Aushik Srinivas. Nayar tried to scoop Srinivas to the leg side but got a leading edge that went straight to Vasudevadas, who had moved from slip to leg slip before the delivery.
Yadav, too, fell to a loose shot. Having marched to a confident half-century, his fifth of the season, he let himself get distracted by a change in angle from Yo Mahesh, Tamil Nadu's third medium-pacer. Mahesh changed to bowling from over the wicket mid-over, and got the last ball of his over to move away off a length. Yadav tried to push hard without moving his feet and gave Karthik his second catch behind the stumps. Ankeet Chavan, who had scored his maiden first-class century in the quarter-final against Madhya Pradesh, lasted just 15 balls before edging to Vijay off Kaushik.
Mumbai were in an embarrassing situation at 98 for 6, and they had no-one but themselves to blame. A combination of defensive fields, the failure of Mumbai's bowlers to maintain probing lengths and bad luck allowed Tamil Nadu's overnight pair of Ramaswamy Prasanna and Mahesh to extend their match-turning partnership to 152 runs. The stand, along with a couple more contributions from the tail, helped the visitors leap from the depths of 139 for 6 at one stage on the first day to 359.
Prasanna started the day on 81 not out, and galloped to his third first-class century with four boundaries on the second morning. He was aided by Mumbai's medium-pacers Dhawal Kulkarni and Balwinder Sandhu who pitched on lengths that made it easy for him to score. What was baffling was Jaffer's decision to spread the field within the first hour when he could have crowded the batsmen with a ring of fielders.
The only saving grace for Mumbai was the performance of Kshemal Waingankar, their third medium-pacer, who bowled tireless spells of reverse-swing. Waingankar only picked up one wicket in the day but it was the pressure he exerted that finally broke the Prasanna-Mahesh partnership. Waingankar bowled his fourth delivery of the morning from close to the stumps. The ball started on middle and Prasanna, who thought the ball would swing into him, moved towards off. The ball, though, suddenly shaped away towards the shiny side, leaving Prasanna flummoxed.
Waingankar swung the ball in, bowled short and had the centurion Prasanna rattled. In the next over, Prasanna was tentative against the part-time medium-pace of Nayar, was beaten by reverse-swing once again and lost his off stump.
Mahesh added another 42 runs with Balaji for the eighth-wicket. He was the ninth batsman to be dismissed, giving Waingankar his first wicket when he was beaten by reverse and trapped lbw. It brought to an end a six-hour vigil at the wicket. Mumbai lost more than half their batting in half that time.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo