Mumbai complete convincing win
Mumbai 307 (Rahane 73, Rohit 62, Jaffer 60) & 305 (Rohit 128, Kukreja 83, Pankaj 4-83) beat Rajasthan 204 (Saxena 76, Kulkarni 5-40, Powar 5-44) & 171 (Khoda 40, Kulkarni 4-48, Powar 3-26) by 237 runs
Mumbai scored a convincing 237-run victory against Rajasthan to start their campaign on an ominous note. Rajasthan's top order had crumbled meekly on the previous evening and there wasn't much resistance from the rest as they crumbled to 171. Dhawal Kulkarni took four wickets in the second innings to finish one short of becoming the second Mumbai bowler (after Suru Nayak) to take ten wickets on debut.
Kulkarni once again struck early in the day. He had taken his maiden wicket off the third ball of the game and got one with his first delivery on Thursday; Ashok Menaria, the only left-hander in the Rajasthan squad, didn't move his feet against a good-length delivery that nipped in off the seam and struck him on the front pad.
Mumbai's bowlers strayed a bit thereafter, allowing the last specialist batting pair of Gagan Khoda and Robin Bist to delay the victory. Barring Kulkarni, the quick bowlers pitched it short, giving the batsmen enough time to play their shots. More surprising was Wasim Jaffer's move to spread the field instead of setting attacking ones to wrap the match up. Better sense soon prevailed and the fielders moved in, drying up the runs.
An hour before lunch Usman Malvi, who had failed to hit a consistent length till then, found his rhythm and got rid of Bist and Khoda in consecutive overs. With the pitch offering assistance, Malvi aimed at a fuller length to make the batsmen play. Bist nicked an away-going delivery to slip and Khoda's decision to play across to an in-cutter resulted in an easy leg-before decision.
Mumbai quelled the tail's resistance immediately after lunch and secured the five points. Both teams will play away games from December 10 with Mumbai travelling to Surat to face Gujarat while Rajasthan clash with Punjab.
Though Mumbai would be happy with their performance, they still have a job on their hands in both the batting and bowling departments. Rohit Sharma's departure to play the ODI series against England will create a big hole in the middle order. Rohit had scored a splendid century on the third day, which followed his first-innings half-century. His belligerent batting after Mumbai had lost three quick wickets in the second innings crushed Rajashtan's spirits; it showed he could shoulder the responsibility in pressure situations. Jaffer admitted Rohit's absence would be a big loss and his "energy and exuberance" would be missed.
What would worry the Mumbai think-tank is the brittle form of the senior-most batsman in the side, Amol Muzumdar, who looked out of touch in both innings. Mumbai will also hope Sairaj Bahutule, who returned to play for his home state after playing for Maharashtra for the past three seasons, finds his rhythm quickly. Bahutule was innocuous on a pitch where Ramesh Powar, his fellow spinner, picked eight wickets. Jaffer, though, wasn't concerned too much. "When you play five bowlers one would be under-bowled and since Ramesh [Powar] was bowling well I couldn't give Sai [Bahutule] the ball," Jaffer said.
Jaffer was also confident Ajit Agarkar, who also went wicketless in the game, would improve with more overs behind him. Agarkar didn't play any competitive cricket apart from one game in Mumbai's Police Shield after he undergoing a hernia operation during the off season.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo