Naik puts Mumbai in front
Mumbai 302 for 7 (Naik 78, Kukreja 66, Jaffer 55) lead Karnataka 195 (Akhil 57) by 107 runs
On a rollercoaster second day at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai began promisingly, allowed their position to slip slightly against a spirited Karnakata, but regrouped to finish 107 runs ahead with three wickets in hand at close of play. The hosts dominated the first session, thanks to a 110-run opening stand between Wasim Jaffer and Sahil Kukreja, only to stumble as Karnataka grabbed five quick wickets in the second session to force their way back into the game. But a composed 78 from Prashant Naik on his Ranji Trophy debut allowed Mumbai to soak up the pressure and reach a healthy 302 for 7 by stumps.
Karnataka had thrown away the advantage of winning the toss on the opening day, but they would have been confident of fighting back through Anil Kumble and Sunil Joshi on a pitch which was offering assistance to spinners. Kumble, though, was a huge disappointment, taking just one wicket in 22 overs and going at nearly four runs per over. Joshi managed three scalps with his left-arm spin, but the effectiveness with which Mumbai thwarted Kumble meant half their battle had been won.
The foundation of their reply was built by Jaffer and Kukreja, who put Karnataka on the back foot after they had been bowled out for 195. The new-ball bowlers, Vinay Kumar and NC Aiyappa, had the openers in trouble whenever they hit the fuller length but an initially circumspect Jaffer shrugged aside his nerves. Kukreja, also cautious, was the more assured of the two, leaning forward to get behind the line. And as the bowlers erred in length at the end of their spells, both openers cashed in with drives and pulls.
Kumble brought himself on in the 13th over, with the score on 32. With a short leg and a silly point in place, he floated his first few deliveries but there was no sign of any bite off the pitch. The short cover disappeared and Kukreja skipped down the track to whip an on-drive through wide mid-on while Jaffer punched one crisply through cover point and drove through the covers. Sunil Joshi appeared in the 23rd over and Jaffer, now having found his groove, welcomed him with two boundaries. He raised his fifty soon after and Kukreja followed, top-edging Joshi in the over before lunch.
After the interval, Karnataka swung back with three wickets in ten balls. Jaffer, late in leaning forward, played on to an incutter from Aiyappa and Joshi snapped up Ajinkya Rahane, offering no stroke to a delivery on the stumps. Aiyappa got Kukreja to edge one to Thilak Naidu, the wicketkeeper, and Kumble returned with fielders hovering around the bat.
He didn't strike immediately, as Amol Muzumdar and Naik put on 48 in 70 minutes, but at 173 for 3 Kumble trapped Muzumdar as he played across the line. Abhishek Nayar, who has already hit two breezy centuries this season, opened with three consecutive boundaries off Kumble and gave Mumbai the lead with a fourth in Kumble's next over. But in the last over before tea, Nayar missed a reverse-sweep against Joshi and was out for an 18-ball 24. He added 44 in just 39 balls, but paid for his impetuosity.
When Ramesh Powar lofted Joshi to mid-on for 10 off seven balls, the score read 231 for 6. Naik, who struck C Raghu over long-on for the first six of the game, found an able ally in Agarkar and proceeded to stretch the lead. He didn't take any undue risks, pushing the ball into the gaps for singles and twos and inspired Agarkar to do the same. Naik punished the loose deliveries, lofting Kumble over mid-off before sweeping really fine when Kumble went round the stumps.
Then, against the run of play, Naik - who hit a hundred in his first-class debut in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy recently - fell to a sharp fielding effort from Yere Gowd: Agarkar had set off for a quick run after tapping the ball close on the off side when Gowd swooped down on the ball to fire in an accurate throw to the keeper to find Naik short of the crease.
Kumble took the new ball in the last over of the day but Agarkar and Vinayak Samant, who came to bat lower than usual, held on as Mumbai ended the day on a strong position, thanks in no small part to Naik's level-headed approach.
Vijay Bharadwaj, Karnataka's coach, wore a rueful expression at the end of the day but refused to criticise the bowlers, saying that the pitch had eased up considerably. "It has gone flatter. I won't blame my bowlers." The lack of pace in the track certainly made Kumble a far lesser weapon, and with a deficit in excess of 100 Karnataka have left themselves with plenty to do over the next two days.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo