North Zone 53 for 0 (Chopra 35*) trail West Zone 274 (Rahane 91, VRV Singh 5-91, Mishra 3-57) by 221 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Hostile bursts from VRV Singh, disciplined bowling from the other bowlers and some irresponsible batting from West Zone, vindicated Mithun Manhas's decision to bowl, as West were bowled out for 274 on the first day of the Duleep Trophy final. North ended the day at 53 for 0, with a strong advantage on a good batting wicket at the Wankhede wicket.
VRV took his second five-wicket haul in two Duleep Trophy matches since his return from Australia. But before that Ajinkya Rahane followed his 172 in the previous game with an aggressive 91 to make sure North were the more anxious side going into lunch. Although Amit Mishra dismissed Sahil Kukreja, who had put together an 88-run partnership with Rahane, an over before lunch, it seemed a foolhardy decision to put the opposition in at the Wankhede, something Mumbai discovered to their peril twice over earlier this season. But just a month back Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir asked UP to bat first in the Ranji final at the same venue.
West went into lunch with their score at 130 for 2, Rahane having tucked into the bowling with 64 off 74 balls.
But North had VRV's fire power, something Mumbai lacked throughout the season. VRV, who had been taken for 60 runs in his 12 overs before the interval despite troubling Rahane, turned the game North's way with two big wickets with his first two balls after lunch. Parthiv Patel got one that reared from a good length, and Cheteshwar Pujara got the nightmare first delivery - a searing yorker that swung away after he had made up his mind to play it on the on side.
Rakesh Solanki was the right man to walk in after West had slumped from 122 for 1 to 139 for 4 in a matter of 21 deliveries, but by then Vikramjeet Malik had replaced VRV and started getting consistent reverse-swing to trouble Rahane. Rahane's response was to counterattack. Whenever Malik pitched it short or went too full looking for swing, he was taken for fours through the off side. But Malik had the final word, trapping Rahane in front, an over after the batsman had survived a similar shout.
Yusuf Pathan came and batted in his characteristic fashion for a brief while. But when he mistimed one of the many shots he played, West were in trouble at 170 for 5. Solanki, who had settled in by then, and Rakesh Dhurv batted 7.2 overs to ensure there was no more damage by tea, taking them to 233 for 6.
The support staff must be giving something special to VRV in the intervals, as his first ball after tea proved to be another beauty: a scorching bouncer at Solanki, who ended up handcuffed and fended at it in an ungainly manner. In his next over VRV accounted for Sandeep Jobanputra, who played away from his body and offered Aakash Chopra a sharp chance at third slip.
The rest caved in duly to give up the initiative Rahane had provided them in the morning session. North's bowlers, to their credit, stuck to the task, and didn't give up when it was easy to. Malik and Mishra, especially, provided VRV the necessary support and stability from the other end, keeping the run flow down even as VRV went all out. Manhas, for his part, kept the slips cordon populated throughout.
Jaffer was on six when he edged between third slip and gully, and couldn't make the most of that reprieve. In the ninth over, after he had added 17 more, he hung his bat out to one from VRV that held its line instead of coming in, and quite uncharacteristically failed to capitalise on a good start.
VRV's consistent pace of around 135kph, along with movement into the batsmen, proved to be the difference between the sides on the first day, but it shouldn't take away from Rahane's dashing knock, full of attractive strokeplay. But with Jaffer and Parthiv out early, West missed a batsman who had a proven capability of batting through the day.
The North Zone openers, Chopra and Shikhar Dhawan, batted out the last hour without much incident. They kept the strokeplay to the bare minimum to start off with, negotiating the awkward period with relative ease. After negotiating Siddharth Trivedi and Ashraf Makda, Chopra set out to dominate Pathan. Chopra took a four of Pathan's first ball, which he bowled seam-up. He then gave his feet a bit of exercise as he lofted Pathan's offbreak for a four. Dhruv's left-arm spin was swept for four off his first ball. Apart from a few Trivedi deliveries which left Dhawan, resulting in close caught-behind shouts, West looked far away from a breakthrough. And if this is a trend, a long day awaits them tomorrow.