The pacers of both teams hastened the Ranji Trophy final towards an early end before Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni batted with grit to stitch together a 57-run sixth-wicket partnership at the Gangothri Glades cricket ground here on Tuesday.
At stumps, Mumbai were 108 for five in their second innings, an overall lead of 211. Nayar was batting on 32 and Kulkarni on 35.
This is the second time in the match that Mumbai have promoted someone up the order and got rewarded. In the first innings it was wicketkeeper Vinayak Samant and now it is Kulkarni. Getting the best out of players has always been a Mumbai speciality and it has been in evidence here as well.
With Ajit Agarkar, Romesh Powar and Iqbal Abdulla yet to bat, Mumbai will be disappointed if they cannot take their lead beyond 300. Karnataka’s hopes lie in getting rid of the last five batsmen quickly and batting with greater patience and skill during the fourth-innings chase.
Mumbai pacers appeared to have killed the game midway into the afternoon session when Karnataka slumped to 130 all out in their first innings in reply to the visitors’ 233. However, Abhimanyu Mithun soon responded with a hostile spell.
With his fifth delivery of the innings, Mithun had Wasim Jaffer driving away from his body and the edge went through to wicketkeeper C.M. Gautam. It was a big blow for Mumbai, who would have expected their captain to bat the hosts out of contention with one of his trademark innings.
No. 3 Ajinkya Rahane was walking in before Jaffer was off the square but he did not last long. Off the first delivery of Mithun’s next over, Rahane poked at the ball without moving his feet and Gautam had his second catch. Omkar Khanvilkar lasted one ball, rapped on the back pad. Mithun was on a hattrick and the crowd was ecstatic.
However, Nayar survived what would have been Mithun’s second hattrick of the season - he got one in his debut match - and by the end of the day the Mumbai left-hander had seen off all that Karnataka threw at him.
While the fightback led by Mithun was stirring, Karnataka would not have needed it had they showed a bit more application in their batting.
In the absence of Rahul Dravid, there was always the possibility that Karnataka’s inexperienced line-up would implode against the discipline of Mumbai. That is exactly what happened as Avishkar Salvi upstaged Kulkarni and Agarkar to finish with five wickets for 31 runs from 13.3 overs.
Only opener K.B. Pawan showed an iota of patience as Karnataka folded for a paltry total, conceding first-inning lead for the first time this season in the most important match of all.
Match referee S Ramesh has fined Agarkar 50 per cent of his match fees and officially reprimanded him for showing dissent at his run out verdict on Monday.