Jaffer completes second century in dull draw
Mumbai 580 for 9 dec (Jaffer 138, Rohit 93, Agarkar 80, Abdulla 150*, Jadeja 4-189) and 207 for 2 (Jaffer 103*, Rohit 73) drew with Saurashtra 374 (Chauhan 63, Mehta 107*)
The wall clocks at the pavilion end of the picturesque Bandra-Kurla Complex grounds were ticking towards tea. Wasim Jaffer was ten steps away from notching his second century of the match. The afternoon sun was blazing. A cloud of dust rose from a neighbouring construction site at one corner of the ground. Suddenly the photographers, with their heavy lenses, scampered away from the cricket, trying to catch a glimpse of surveillance aircraft that have been patrolling Mumbai skies over the past few days as part of security for the United States' president Barack Obama's visit.
That was perhaps the only burst of activity for the photographers on the final day, after a lull had set in early. The only matter of interest, if any, was if Saurashtra could avoid the follow-on. That thought lasted less than half an hour as Avishkar Salvi wrapped up the Saurashtra tail - three wickets fell for ten runs. Wasim Jaffer wisely decided not to ask Saurashtra to bat again. With a maximum of 78 overs remaining, Mumbai's fielders were tanned enough and there was no desire to get sunburnt.
Jaffer understood that to offer Saurashtara a second chance to bat, especially on a pitch that had proved unresponsive for the bowlers, would only be an exercise in self flagellation. Instead he took advantage of the flatness in the pitch to score his second century of the match and add to his already substantial domestic record.
Mumbai might have earned three points from a first-innings lead but they were the first to object to playing on such an ineffective surface which, they said, had robbed them of an outright victory. On the third day, with more than a session left, Saurashtra were reeling at 291 for 6 after struggling against the offspin of Ramesh Powar. But as the pitch failed to break, and in the absence of no rough, the bowlers had to rely on hard work and luck to create chances. Powar, who finished with a five-for by the end of Wednesday, said it was painful for the bowlers to take 20 wickets.
"We have spoken to the [Mumbai Cricket Association] management and the curator about the pitch and asked for a helpful wicket [in future]," Jaffer said after the match, which was called off immediately before the mandatory overs began. "Our bowlers had already bowled 130 overs and to bowl them again was a tough ask. We also have to travel in a day and that would take a toll on the fast bowlers." Mumbai play their second game on November 10 against Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Jaffer's concerns were serious because a victory in the season-opener would have been a boost for Mumbai. Although they have been champions for the last two seasons, Mumbai had only one outright victory during the league stage. To improve their win count, though, they need surfaces that produce a contest and not force teams to bat out time and remain happy with a first-innings lead.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo