Ranji Trophy Super League, 2008-09 January 10, 2009

Mumbai's road to the final

Cricinfo staff

Mumbai, who have won a record 37 Ranji Trophy titles, go into the final unbeaten all season. Their batting has centered around Wasim Jaffer and Ajinka Rahane, one a veteran and the other in his second season, while the wickets have been taken by the hardened campaigner Ramesh Powar and the rookie Dhawal Kulkarani, in his first year. The rest of the cast lags well behind these four statistically, but bits and pieces a dedicated worth ethic has paid off for the side. On the eve of the final, Cricinfo takes a look at how Mumbai got to the final over the 2008-09 season.


Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane were the mainstay of Mumbai's batting, each racking up over 1,000 runs © Cricinfo Ltd

Round 1, v Rajasthan in Mumbai
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
After failing to enter the knockout round last season Mumbai needed a fresh start. They bounced back in resounding fashion with a 237-run win over Rajasthan at home. Dhawal Kulkarni fell short of matching Suru Nayak's record of picking 10 wickets on debut as he lead Mumbai's bowling on his bony shoulders admirably even as Ajit Agarkar went wicketless. Senior offspinner Ramesh Powar matched Kulkarni's five-wicket haul in the first innings with his own, as the duo doused Rajasthan's spirits in clinical fashion. Their hardwork was equalled by a quickfire in-a-session century by Rohit Sharma which put the game out of Rajasthan's reach.

Round 2, v Gujarat in Surat
Mumbai 486 (Jaffer 172, Rahane 104, Muzumdar 61, Parmar 6-143, Makda 3-59) beat Gujarat 203 (Makda 73, Kulkarni 4-70) and 44 (Kulkarni 3-7, Agarkar 3-15, Powar 3-19) by an innings and 239 runs
This one was a tougher gambit. Gujarat had just overwhelmed Saurashtra by an innings. Mumbai's challenge was increased by the departure of Rohit, who had left to play the ODI series against England. But Wasim Jaffer proved his credentials as a domestic giant, sharing a match-turning 218-run second-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane. Both batsman cracked the season's first tons respectively. Kulkarni displayed his prowess to strike early once again with four first-innings wickets and Gujarat were forced to follow-on. On return, the hosts suffered the second-worst defeat in their Ranji history, with Mumbai thundering to an innings-and-239-run win to establish their supremacy once again. Kulkarni, Agarkar and Powar picked three each as Gujarat were gobbled up for 44, which was just one run more than their lowest total in the Ranji Trophy, 43 against Bombay in 1958-59.

Round 3, v Delhi in Delhi
Mumbai 330 (Rahane 160, Muzumdar 83, Narwal 4-43) and 468 for 4 (Kukreja 229*, Jaffer 98, Rahane 78, Samant 53*) drew with Delhi 295 (Manhas 98, Bhatia 81, Bahutule 3-44)
The usual needle to this rivalry was somewhat in Mumbai's favour: compared to their two outright victories, Delhi were languishing in the bottom half with just three points. The absence of regulars like Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, and Ashish Nehra hurt them further. Mumbai got off to an anxious start when they lost Jaffer early on (2 for 72) but Rahane showed his fast-growing maturity with the second straight hundred, as he combined well with Mumbai's most senior batsman Amol Muzumdar in a 223-run stand for the third wicket. In a match stuttering towards a draw after Delhi conceded a 35-run first-inning lead, Mumbai gained some batting practice with Sahil Kukreja scoring a double-hundred. Mumbai retained top place in the group with first-innings points.

Round 4, v Saurashtra in Rajkot
Saurashtra 643 for 4 (Pujara 176, Pathak 170, Chauhan 104, Kotak 78) drew with Mumbai 214 (Malvi 56, Balkrishna Jadeja 4-41) and 157 for 7
In the end Mumbai were left trembling on the precipice and the fall was avoided by the stiff resistance of their lower middle-order led by Ramesh Powar. After Saurashtra amassed 643 for 4 with centuries from the opening combine of Chirag Pathak, making his debut, Bhusan Chavan and Cheteshwar Pujara, another debutant, Balkrishna Jadeja, rattled Mumbai's top-order forcing them to follow-on. Balkrishna returned to add Jaffer and Rahane on the final morning. At 89 for 5 Saurashtra were eyeing a big victory, but Powar refused to give up and his four-hour-long vigil gave Mumbai the solace of a single point.

Round 5, v Hyderabad in Mumbai
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
Cricket returned to Mumbai after the metropolis was rocked by the 26/11 terror blasts. Just like its citizens were looking to return to normal life, the cricketers, too, wanted to bounce back after the damage wrecked by Saurashtra. Jaffer's sparkling 256 and a record 335-run partnership with Rahane laid the foundation for the victory. Kulkarni's 7-50, career-best figures, ensured that Hyderabad were crushed by an innings and 108 runs. Mumbai earned the bonus point for the second time.

Dhawal Kulkarni tops Mumbai's tally with 37 wickets © Cricinfo Ltd

Round 6, v Orissa in Cuttack
Mumbai 180 (Samant 46, B Mohanty 5-50, DS Mohanty 3-28) and 361 for 5 dec (Rahane 201, Jaffer 66, Kukreja 53) beat Orissa 108 (H Das 62*, Kulkarni 5-27) and 118 (Jayachandra 72, Shaikh 3-30) by 315 runs
Virtually assured of a knockout berth, Mumbai decided to offer chances to rookies including debutant Rahil Shaikh, a tall, raw, left-arm fast bowler. On a skiddy pitch Mumbai were knocked out for 180, but the trio of Kulkarni, Kshemal Waingankar and Shaikh ran through the hosts quickly, helping Mumbai to a 72-run lead. Then Rahane turned the match on its head, blasting a run-a-ball double century, a career-best performance that gave Mumbai an ample lead and time to bowl out Orissa. A 315-run victory put Mumbai into the quarterfinals.

Round 7, v Punjab in Mumbai
Mumbai 436 for dec (Muzumdar 113, Rohit 85, Rahane 80) and 151 for 1 (Rahane 82*, Jaffer 52*) beat Punjab 202 (Kakkar 67, Shaikh 4-50) and 382 (Kaul 136*, Kakkar 58) by nine wickets
Muzumdar jumped ecstatically in the air, doffed his cap towards the dressing room to thank his team-mates after he recorded the season's first century, thus putting to an end fits-and-starts-run in the previous rounds. His efforts had put Mumbai well ahead of Punjab, who were restricted to 202 after electing to bat. Though Uday Kaul delayed the inevitable with a stubborn 136 (unbeaten), Jaffer and Rahane blasted their way to the 149-run target to finish the league campaign on a victorious note, at the end of which Mumbai had the highest number of wins (5).

Quarter-finals, v Himachal Pradesh in Ahmedabad
Mumbai 495 (Jaffer 108, Rohit 98, Agarkar 50) and 43 for 1 beat Himachal Pradesh 250 (Sarandeep Singh 75, Mannu 61, Nayar 6-45) and 287 (Dogra 90, Sangram Singh 58, Agarkar 5-78) by nine wickets
Though victory was achieved comfortably in the end this game once again exposed Mumbai's bowlers' inability to finish off the job. At 74 for 5 Himachal were reeling under severe pressure on the first day but they managed to get to 250. Jaffer then picked up his third century while Rohit missed his second by two runs; Mumbai scored 495. Once again Himachal were proving to be gritty customers, starting the final day on 200 for 5, but Agarkar, who had missed a couple of games previously due to bad health, returned to grab three quick wickets in seven balls. He went on to grab his first five-wicket haul of the season. Mumbai crossed the target of 43 easily to set up an enticing clash with Saurashtra.

Semis, v Saurashtra, in Chennai
Mumbai 637 for 6 dec (Jaffer 301, Tendulkar 122, Rahane 85) and 42 for 1 drew with Saurashtra 379 (Kotak 89, Makvana 56*, Powar 4-108). Mumbai progress on basis of first-innings lead
Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan returned to strengthen Mumbai's resolve to settle the scores with Saurashtra. But despite the huge amount of experience in their ranks Mumbai once again had to sweat it out to topple their plucky opponents. Jaffer's triple ton and Tendulkar's spectacular century had helped Mumbai to a mammoth total. But a mixture of solid resistance from Saurashtra's batsmen, sloppy fielding, aimless bowling and the impending scare of a cyclone almost spoilt Mumbai's progress. Kotak once again erected a wall that none of the bowlers could break through, but once he flicked one into the hands of short fine leg at the end of the third evening, Mumbai found another opening to bounce back. It still took them a while, what with the lower-order pair of Kamlesh Makwana and Rakesh Dhruv surviving the first session, but Mumbai wrapped up the matter in the nick of time before bad light forced the game to be abandoned.