Jharkhand 262 for 8 (Tiwary 175*, Javed 4-61) v Mumbai
This is quite a unique scorecard. Jharkhand lost eight wickets within two sessions. Two batsmen made ducks, three made single-digit scores, and four others scored between 11 and 28. But they are still batting on 250-plus, thanks almost entirely to Saurabh Tiwary's blazing 175, his tenth first-class hundred and highest score. Seventy-five of those runs came from 180 for 8 in the company of No.10 Shankar Rao, in a partnership that has now lasted over a session and produced 82 runs.
Such was the effect of Tiwary's hitting that the defending champions were reduced to stationing up to eight men in the deep for prolonged periods in the final session. Not that it made much difference to Tiwary, for he swung eight sixes over those boundary riders, in addition to his 17 fours. The spread-out fields also allowed him to farm the strike comfortably, so that Rao almost never had to face more than two balls in an over. By stumps, defending stubbornly, he had survived for 64 balls with only two scoring shots.
Tiwary has rarely made the news for his first-class exploits. Partly, this is because he plays for Jharkhand, a state many people realised had a Ranji team only when MS Dhoni emerged. Mostly, it is because of his multi-million dollar IPL paycheque, his flowing hair, his brawn and the comparisons with Dhoni have given him a flashy, Twenty20 image. So much that when Manish Pandey ran into trouble for demanding more than what he was entitled to in the IPL as an uncapped player, Tiwary's case was cited by some in Pandey's defence, as an example of similar players earning disproportionately more just because they had played the odd international match.
The attention, for now at least, will be firmly on Tiwary's first-class performances. This was his seventh fifty-plus score in nine innings this Ranji season. It must also be noted that Jharkhand have been promoted from Group C, where they were used to facing weaker teams, although no one will call this Mumbai attack strong. Tiwary is now the season's leading run-getter; the next three are from Group C.
From the first ball he faced at 13 for 2, Tiwary was in a different class to the rest of his struggling team-mates. Javed Khan, the best bowler on the day, bounced him first ball. Tiwary pulled it in front of square for four.
The state of the game never restricted his pace of scoring. He motored to 50 off 71, to 100 off 144 and to 175 off 264. Barring the final session, Jharkhand kept losing wickets. There were stabilising partnerships of 73 and 49 for the third and fifth wickets, but Bhavik Thaker threw it away with a charge and Pappu Singh blocked and blocked before pushing one to silly point.
Tiwary was in the zone at the other end. He may have scored more than a hundred runs in boundaries alone, but in between those bursts of his obvious power, there were numerous disciplined leaves. For an entire session, he refused singles. He would punch to deep extra cover, and walk calmly towards square leg. Invariably, he would take the single off the fourth ball of the over, with Mumbai refusing to move the field in. Rao would block the last two balls. This played out in loop throughout the afternoon.
At times, the IPL version would appear, and he would cart the spinner many rows over deep midwicket, loft the seamers disdainfully into the sightscreen, bludgeon them through the covers.
From the time he walked in, Mumbai thought they could bounce him out. Repeatedly, the seamers, especially Shardul Thakur, dug it in short. Tiwary hooked with complete control. Often, there were four deep fielders on the leg side. Tiwary still hooked, and still beat them to the rope.
Mumbai took the second new ball as soon as it became available. Tiwary stepped forward and casually lifted Javed's first delivery with it over mid-off. He pushed the last ball of the day and safely hustled across to keep strike for the second morning. The defending champions have a game on their hands; Tiwary is still not done, and Varun Aaron is yet to be handled.