Rahane and Jaffer pin down Hyderabad
Hyderabad 266 and 63 for 1 trail Mumbai 519 for 2 (Rahane 265*, Kukreja 122, Jaffer 107*) by 190 runs
While Virender Sehwag & Co. were going berserk at the Brabourne, Mumbai's batsmen went on a rampage of their own to leave Hyderabad facing defeat at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Mumbai's utter domination of the day was shown by the inflation in the number of fielders patrolling the boundary: two at the start to six by an hour after lunch, as a double-century from Ajinkya Rahane and yet another Wasim Jaffer hundred dismantled the bowling.
The overnight batsmen, Rahane and Sahil Kukreja, blunted the second new ball and moved unfussily to their centuries early in the day; their 258-run association was the largest-ever at the ground. Soon after Mumbai eased into the lead, and off the first ball after morning-session drinks Kukreja edged to slip, giving Hyderabad their sole moment to shout about in the day.
The Hyderabad fielders were thrilled at breaking that stand, but things only got worse when Jaffer walked in. The Mumbai captain has been terrifying domestic attacks since his axing from the national team last year, and today was just another day in the office for him. Unlike all the other batsmen in this match, he didn't need any time to start stroking the ball around; his first four was a lofted cover drive, followed by a stylish punch to the long-on boundary. His arrival put the Mumbai innings into overdrive - 39 runs coming off five overs, with Jaffer racing to 25 off 21.
His aggression encouraged Rahane also to open up. On Wednesday, it had been a controlled effort from Rahane, but today he started to take more risks. Wide deliveries that he was happy to leave on Wednesday were crunched to the point region today. Full deliveries outside off were flicked to square leg, and he jumped down the track to the fast bowlers to punch them down the ground. A six over cover off the front foot, just after Mumbai reached 450, was perhaps the highlight of his innings.
Hyderabad tried everything to slow the pair down on a track which still had nothing to interest the bowlers. Bouncers were easily evaded; offspinner Amol Shinde's leg stump line from around the wicket with a 3-6 on-side field was negated by Jaffer's reverse-sweeps. The third-man area proved very productive for Jaffer, playing several controlled steers past the slips on his way to a second century of the season. With no bowler with serious pace, and spinners of only middling ability, Hyderabad could do little to stop Mumbai's batsmen.
The 24 overs Mumbai batted after lunch were the most manic; Hyderabad had virtually given up - no chirping at the batsmen, most fielders giving the teapot as they waited for a declaration - as Rahane and Jaffer smashed 141 runs. Rahane, in particular, was having a blast, and was stampeding towards a triple-century when Mumbai decided to declare with 35 minutes to go for lunch. The Rahane-Jaffer show had added 236 runs in 251 deliveries.
The docile pitch, on which prising out a batsman is difficult once he's set, prompted the early declaration, leaving Mumbai 117 overs to collect five (or six) points and move ahead of Punjab into second place.
The Hyderabad openers survived a probing spell with the new ball. Both of them, Rushi Raj and Shashank Nag, needed a solid performance, as one of them is likely to be sidelined when VVS Laxman returns for the remaining two Ranji matches. Both their auditions nearly ended almost as soon as it began: substitute Prashant Naik spilled a chance at slip off Raj, and Mumbai were sure they had Nag caught behind on the final ball before tea but the umpire didn't.
They gritted it out against a buoyant Mumbai pace attack, but the introduction of spin ended their 90-minute resistance. Raj charged down the track thrice in offspinner Ramesh Powar's first over, the third time he slapped the ball back to the bowler.
Hyderabad's batting has been abysmal this season. Not only has there been no centurion so far, there hasn't even been a hundred partnership. Friday is when they need to change that statistic, and salvage a point that could prove vital in the relegation battle.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo