Munaf Patel picking up wickets for Rest of India against Mumbai and S Sreesanth hitting the right areas on Friday must come as good news for MS Dhoni at a time when India's bowling is not in good health.
Though not at his fiery best and averaging a shade under the 130-kmph, Munaf made up with his height to induce Mumbai top-order into false strokes. It needed was quite an effort to induce edges into wicket-keeper Wriddiman Saha's gloves as the bounce was low.
Munaf’s three for 47, with Sreesanth complementing him by bowling in the right spots consistently, helped Rest give a good fight in defending a paltry first innings score of 260. Mumbai were 200 for six before bad light stopped play on the second day with 18 overs remaining. Between lunch and tea, the Ranji champions lost four wickets in the space of 10 overs and 15 runs, and a surrender looked imminent before the seasoned Vinayak Samant and Ramesh Powar rescued the innings with an unbroken 40-run stand for the seventh wicket.
After a costly spell on Thursday evening, Munaf was fresh and raring to go on Friday morning in overcast conditions. While he troubled Sahil Kukreja and kept Wasim Jaffer quiet, it was Sreesanth who drew first blood. The Kerala speedster swung into the right-handed Kukreja, who defended away from his body, missing the line and was bowled.
For Sreesanth and Munaf, this match is crucial in their attempt to return to the Indian team.
Sreesanth seems to have found his confidence and form with controlled swing both ways, courtesy a stint in Warwickshire recently. Thankfully, both Munaf and Sreesanth are free of injuries.
Munaf was lucky to get his first wicket when the well-set Ajinkya Rahane was adjudged caught behind down the leg-side by Amish Saheba when it seemed that the ball brushed his pads.
But Munaf's consistency was rewarded when he castled the dangerous Jaffer with one that marginally came in and took the inside edge, while with the away-going delivery, he had the inexperienced Prashant Naik nick behind. Sreesanth was unlucky not to have more wickets than the only breakthrough he got in the morning.
Sudip Tyagi was awful in his first spell. However, he made a good comeback, picking up two vital scalps including that of Rohit Sharma, who would do well to learn to protect his wicket if he is to think of making a return to the Indian team.