Mumbai 37 for 1 (Rahane 23*, Nayar 14*) trail Karnataka 635 for 9 dec (Pandey 200*, Verma 173, Chavan 3-115) by 598 runs
Ramesh Powar took the usual few steps to deliver his, and the innings', eighth no-ball. Embarrassed he walked back to the bowling mark. Rubbing the sweat from his forehead and temples, first with his left shoulder followed by the right, Powar prepared to bowl again. For a moment he gathered his breath, stared at the batsman before moving in with his quick-step bowling action to deliver. This time the ball slipped out of his sweaty palm and Powar fumbled to collect it from the ground. Finally he managed to deliver successfully what turned out be a flighted ball. Abhimanyu Mithun, Karnataka's No. 9 batsman, skipped out of the crease immediately, confidently, to loft Powar over the straight boundary for a six. It was that kind of day for Mumbai: their bowlers were shown scant respect while the opposition batsmen ran the roughshod.
Karnataka tightened their control over the game by adding a further 319 runs on day two. Manish Pandey, who had left the ground yesterday due to dehydration and cramps, returned to compile his maiden double-century in the Ranji Trophy while Amit Verma notched up his career-best score and his fourth century in this format.
To compound Mumbai's misery, the hosts lost their most experienced batsman when their captain Wasim Jaffer, erroneously, offered no shot to the fourth delivery of the innings from his Karnataka counterpart R Vinay Kumar. The ball nipped back into Jaffer's right pad, just below the knee roll, prompting K Hariharan, the umpire, to raise his finger.
The previous evening Pandey had made clear the visitors' intentions: Karnataka would aim for at least 450 on a pitch where batsmen could comfortably play their strokes. And, so, 101 runs came in the first session. The visitors moved into top gear in the middle segment, cracking 189 runs in 30 overs, and, by then, Karnataka had breached the 600-run mark.
Pandey walked in at the fall of Vinay, who enjoyed a harmless first hour to complete a fine half-century. Unlike Thursday where he was the pilot, Pandey allowed Verma to take the flight controls. It helped that Brabourne was a familiar environment for Verma, who had honed his basics under the tutelage of Vasu Paranjape, himself a former Mumbai stalwart, for three consecutive summers during his teens.
No bowler presented any difficulty for the left-handed Verma, who picked runs on both sides of the wicket. Powar, bowling wide of the popping crease, tried luring Verma with flight and was soon dispatched past the cover boundary. Iqbal Abdulla focussed too much on bowling in to Verma's legs only to be thwacked over his head a few times. The other left-arm spinner, Ankit Chavan, was not spared either.
On 88, Verma reached three-figures with consecutive sixes against Powar - the first over the sight screen at the Churchgate End followed by another strong hit that sailed over long-on. Both batsmen easily charged bowlers, who tried everything - bowling from both ends, bowling negative lines, bowling to spread-out fields - yet failed to gain the upperhand.
Disappointingly for Mumbai not one bowler could tie down the batsman. Ajit Agarkar, Powar and Abdulla, Mumbai's leading bowlers in the past many seasons, were rendered useless. Interestingly, Powar and Abdulla had faced similar problems against a much weaker Rajasthan batting line-up last week on a similar track.
There could be some sympathy for the bowler. The Brabourne pitch is not bowler-friendly as five wickets on the first day and four today indicated. However, domestic bowlers over the decades have toiled on flat pitches and gained respect by bowling tighter lines. On evidence, it would not be wrong to say that Mumbai's bowlers have failed to maintain consistent lines of attack. Karnataka could have easily piled a 700-plus score but it seems they have more confidence in their bowling attack that contains three bowlers who have been in the Indian dressing room in the last two years.
In Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma - the pair are part of the current Indian Test squad playing West Indies - and Abhishek Nayar, Mumbai have the wherewithal to challenge Karnataka. Each have their own individual ambitions to fulfil. And that could be a good enough spice to lift this contest which is in Karnataka's favour at the moment.