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The Bulletin by Nagraj Gollapudi at the Brabourne Stadium
December 18, 2008
Mumbai 90 for 1 (Rahane 53*, Samant 35*) trail Punjab 202 (Kakkar 67, Shaikh 4-50) by 112 runs
Ajinkya Rahane's quickfire half-century destroyed any hopes of a fightback Punjab might have entertained after Wasim Jaffer's early exit, as Mumbai ended the first day in control at the Brabourne Stadium. Rahane's unbeaten 53 and his unbroken second-wicket stand of 86 with Vinayak Samant, batting on 35, consolidated Mumbai's position after Rahil Shaikh's best innings figures restricted Punjab to 202.
Punjab came out aggressively in defence of their total. Amanpreet Singh attacked the channel in and around off stump consistently. He made an immediate impact, inducing an edge from Jaffer, picked easily by Pankaj Dharmani at first slip. Vinayak Samant was tentative in his role as a makeshift opener and Punjab sniffed a chance to make further inroads. But Rahane, the tournament's leading run-getter, continued his splendid form and asserted himself brilliantly.
He got off the blocks with a fluent cover drive against Gagandeep Singh and followed it with a back-foot punch that found its way past mid-off. Despite being younger to Samant by 16 years, Rahane understood he was the senior with the bat. A naturally attacking batsman, Rahane did not mind taking chances. Amanpreet continued probing an off stump line and nearly had his second success when an edge from Rahane fell a yard short of Uday Kaul behind the stumps. A half-hearted steer had failed to carry to slips the delivery before that.
But the diminutive Rahane, who has scored four hundreds this season, was not going to hold back and brought up his fifty with a brilliant cover drive off a half volley from Gagandeep.
Earlier a valuable 95-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Ankur Kakkar and Uday Kaul saved Punjab. Dharmani's decision to bat first failed miserably, with Mumbai's pace attack taking four quick wickets in the first hour. Making full use of the slight grass left on the pitch, the Mumbai fast-bowling trio of Rajesh Verma, Usman Malvi and Shaikh moved the ball appreciably in the air in addition to sticking to a tight line, forcing the batsmen to play.
The left-armer Shaikh, playing only his second game, earned a wicket off his third ball. He got enough lift off the pitch and Ravi Inder Singh's attempted cut only resulted in a top-edge. Shaikh was the second bowler to pick a wicket in his first over after Malvi's late inswinger had trapped Karan Goel for a duck in the day's second over.
Punjab looked in danger after the senior pair of Dharmani and Sunny Sohal departed quickly. Dharmani's exit was dubious, a straight one from Shaikh hitting the tall Punjab captain above the knee. Sohal, Punjab's mainstay in their campaign so far, looked composed for a while, but Malvi breached his strong defence with a delivery that curved into him and knocked the bails off.
However, the pair of Kakkar and Kaul arrested the slide by middling the ball and picking the easy single to begin win. Later, once they had realised the fast bowlers were tired, the duo played shots with freedom - Kakkar assumed the role of the aggressor while Kaul played the anchor.
Shortly before lunch Kakkar unleashed himself on Shaikh with four boundaries in an over - a steer, cut, square drive and pull - to restore some parity. He pushed the accelerator immediately into the second session, playing the cut and pull with disdain off short deliveries from Malvi. Two drives through cover got him to his third half-century of the tournament.
Unfortunately Kaul, who had shown ample patience at the other end, suffered a momentary lapse in concentration and paid dearly. Trying to clip Abhishek Nayar's angled delivery from around the stumps to the on side, he offered an easy edge behind. Kakkar, too, followed shortly, poking lamely at straighter one from Shaikh. Chandan Madan's 29 then helped Punjab past 200.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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