Kulkarni consigns Hyderabad to innings defeat
Mumbai 602 for 6 dec (Jaffer 256, Rahane 137, Agarkar 77*, Arjun 4-99) beat Hyderabad 251 (Suman 67, Pai 66, Quadri 50*, Powar 5-67) and 243 (Teja 107, Abhinav 67, Kulkarni 7-50) by an innings and 108 runs
Dhawal Kulkarni's career-best performance ensured Mumbai were in the field less than two hours on the final day to complete an innings victory over Hyderabad. Needing 185 at the start of the day to make Mumbai bat again, Hyderabad managed to add 76 before losing their six remaining wickets.
Kulkarni's knack of taking wickets early in his spell continued, as he picked up three in nine deliveries in his first two overs. Ravi Teja, who had stalled Mumbai's march with a belligerent century on the previous evening, was the first to go. He got onto the front foot as the ball swung in but it jagged away after pitching on a length and took the edge for a catch behind. Kulkarni stepped up his pace and ended the over with a straight one that beat Abdul Quadri's defence to knock back the off stump.
In his next over MP Arjun's lame push at an angled delivery gave Wasim Jaffer a low catch at slip. It gave Kulkarni five wickets for the innings, the second time since his match-winning performance on Ranji debut when he took nine wickets. Four overs later, SM Shoaib's steer failed to beat Ajinkya Rahane at gully and Kulkarni finished his first spell with figures of 6-1-19-4. With Kulkarni out of the attack, Hyderabad had some breathing space and Abhinav Kumar and Ashwin Yadav started a late rearguard.
But Jaffer, in no mood to spend the afternoon in the sun, brought Kulkarni back. The move paid off instantly when Kulkarni squared Abhinav Kumar with an out-going delivery to break the 51-run partnership for the ninth wicket, Jaffer latching on to his fifth catch of the innings. Three balls later, the final wicket went down and Mumbai celebrated a handsome victory.
Kulkarni, who finished with a career-best match haul of 9 for 86, felt the key wicket today was that of Ravi Teja. "Yesterday he [Teja] was playing all his shots on the back foot," Kulkarni said. "My plan today was to make him play on the front. The ball dipped in the air first, but moved out after pitching and he moved on the front to play."
Jaffer admitted that though he had expected the victory, he didn't think it would be so easy. "I thought we would win by the end of the day, but I did not expect it would be over so soon." Their large score, he said, offered his bowlers the cushion to work Hyderabad out and he singled out the efforts of Ramesh Powar and Kulkarni. "Ramesh bowled the flighted ones initially but yesterday he bowled a lot tighter and gave us the advantage. And today Dhawal was brilliant."
This was Mumbai's second bonus point this season and they are now reasonably assured of a quarter-final berth with 21 points. They travel next to Cuttack for their penultimate league game against Orissa while Hyderabad, who have 10 points, host Punjab. Mumbai's selectors have rested Powar for the Orissa game, with Rahil Shaikh replacing him in the 15-man squad.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo