Mumbai 236 for 0 (Jaffer 121*, Mane 105*) trail Tamil Nadu 294 (Karthik 109*) by 58 runs
Wasim Jaffer and Vinayak Mane gave a lesson in partnership-building as Mumbai reached a commanding 236 for no loss at the end of the second day's play at Chennai. The openers' batting approach was a direct contrast to yesterday, when the Tamil Nadu batsmen had created their own pitfalls on a featherbed of a pitch.
When play began this morning, MR Shrinivas hung on for 52 balls and added 25 with Dinesh Karthik. They were completely at ease in their 53-run stand and nudged the score towards the 300 mark. However, Nilesh Kulkarni was brought on after the medium pacers failed to strike, and trapped Shrinivas with a quicker one in his second over.
And there began Tamil Nadu's grind, under the blazing sun. Mane started in a great hurry, pulling Shrinivas to the midwicket fence in the second over of the innings. A few more neat drives followed, before he nearly paid the price for going after every ball. An inside edge missed the stumps by inches, and Ramakrishnan Ramkumar grassed an uppish flash off the very next ball. A few balls later, he flashed again, and this time, Karthik only managed to get his fingertips to it. Mane was on 15 when he survived these nervy moments, and that was the last whiff of a chance that either batsmen offered.
Mane creamed three consecutive fours of C Ganapathy, and that set the tone for the rest of the day. Jaffer, who had had a quiet day till then, latched on to the momentum. A silken straight-drive off Shrinivas loosened the leash, and he deftly used the angles against the spinners. Two shots stood out for their exact placement: a delicate sweep off Sridharan Sriram, who was firing it in on leg stump with a strong leg-side field, and a late cut that beat both third man and deep point.
Jaffer took just 55 balls to race from 50 to his hundred. There was a smooth air about the whole innings, with hardly any shots played in the air. Jaffer rated this knock, which included 17 fours, as one of the best innings of his career. "The 314 that I scored in my second first-class game was special," he said, "but this one will rank as one of the best. I have played in three Ranji Trophy finals and have missed out on scoring a hundred in the previous ones. I was extremely keen to get this one."
Mane's century, his third on the trot, was characterised by some well-controlled sweeps. There was a patch after tea when he swept almost every ball from the spinners, sometimes picking it from way outside off. Fittingly, he reached his hundred with a swept single, and was eager to cash in on his great form and carry on for much more. "I was disappointed when I didn't make a double-hundred in the semi-final," he said. "I will try and get a big one this time."
Those are ominous words as far as Tamil Nadu are concerned. This was the highest partnership for Mumbai against Tamil Nadu, and thoughts go back to March 1996, the last time a Ranji Trophy final was played in this stadium. On that occasion, Karnataka kept Tamil Nadu on the field for the best part of three days, and pummeled 620 for 8, before romping to the title. And to realise how bad things could still get for Tamil Nadu, you only had to listen to Jaffer say: "It would be great to get a second triple century."