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Mumbai high after initial struggle

It could have been an engaging battle. The finesse of Wasim Jaffer against the pace of Ishant Sharma. But half-an-hour into the Ranji Trophy semifinal, the lanky pacer snuffed out chances of any treat, reports KR Guruprasad.

cricket Updated: Jan 04, 2010 00:22 IST
KR Guruprasad

It could have been an engaging battle. The finesse of Wasim Jaffer against the pace of Ishant Sharma. But half-an-hour into the Ranji Trophy semifinal, the lanky pacer snuffed out chances of any treat.

Having promoted himself up the order to negate the challenge posed by Ishant, Mumbai captain Jaffer tried to play across the line and turn a full-length delivery to the onside. He missed the line and fell over, the ball thudding into his pads. The umpire upheld the appeal.

Thus began the first session on Day I of this clash between Mumbai and Delhi. But in the next two sessions, it was all-rounder Abhishek Nayar, who stole the show with an unbeaten 111 that saved the day and place them well. On way to his century, the left-hander added 145 for the fourth wicket with Omkar Khanvilkar and 98 for the unbroken stand for the fifth, with Ajit Agarkar. After electing to bat in conditions slightly favourable to bowlers, Mumbai were 329 for four at stumps.

Till lunch, it was Delhi who held an edge, having got an early wicket and also dislodging two more — Sahil Kukreja and the in-form Ajinkya Rahane.

But as the day got sunnier, it was Mumbai’s batting that got brighter with Nayar and Khanvilkar bailing the team out.

Nayar, returning after missing a couple of matches because of an injury to his right wrist, shifted gears effortlessly as he built the partnership with fellow left-hander Khanvilkar.

When Khanvilkar got out in the 61st over, stumped off Rajat Bhatia, Nayar tempered his aggression. Later in the day, when the shadows lengthened, the sizeable crowd got their day’s highlight with Nayar cutting Mithun Manhas for a four to reach his hundred.

There was a cause for concern for Mumbai too, with Nayar needing medical attention to his right wrist near the end of day’s play. Nayar began his innings showing prudence before the first break. But he could not keep his aggressive self under check and got stuck into the bowling after lunch. With that, Mumbai’s scoring rate changed dramatically. On the last ball of the 33rd over, bowled by left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra, Nayar stepped out and sent the ball soaring over the sightscreen for the first six of the match.

The next over, by Parvinder Awana, fetched 15 runs, thanks to a boundary that came from an overthrow. Nayar got one more through a cut to backward point. Next to be rattled by Nayar was part-time bowler Manhas. The gentle off-breaks were tempting and the batsman hit two consecutive sixes; over the bowler’s head.

However, Ishant bowled consistently and took two wickets. But the pitch appears to have eased out and with the middle-order to be tested, Delhi might rue not pressing home early advantage.