Jammu and Kashmir continued their rapid rise in the domestic circuit, notching up a stunning four-wicket triumph over 40-time champions Mumbai with more than a session to spare in their Group A Ranji Trophy cricket opener at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Chasing a modest target of 237 and commencing on their overnight score of 58 for one, J-K kept their composure despite losing five more wickets to reach the target 73 minutes after lunch on the fourth and final day.
The visitors lost overnight unbeaten batsman Bandeep Singh quite early, but then were aided by small partnerships that steered them home.
First innings centurion Shubhum Khajuria made 78 in 227 minutes before he was out when the side needed 66 more runs for victory.
He added 52 runs with Ian Chauhan (30) in 175 balls for the third wicket to set the side on the way to the target after the early loss of overnight batsman Bandeep Singh.
Later, Khajuria put on 53 invaluable runs with his captain Parveez Rasool (32) in 63 balls for the fourth wicket to bring J-K closer to the target.
Though both departed at the same score of 171, Hardeep Singh (41 not out) guided the team towards the target by adding 44 runs for the sixth wicket with Waseem Raja.
After the latter's dismissal, Hardeep, who batted for 104 minutes and hit four fours, added 22 runs for the unconquered seventh wicket with wicketkeeper Obaid Haroon (9 not out) to dash Mumbai's hopes.
"To beat Mumbai in Mumbai is a great achievement. Our graph has been rising steadily over the last 2-3 years, but we were told playing in the elite division is different. We have answered that question," said Rasool, beating the heavyweights in their very first clash in 80 years of the tournament.
Team coach Sunil Joshi said that for the first time in the last 20 years, he saw Mumbai batsmen "showing vulnerability against pace bowling."
"Our morale is up after this victory," said Rasool who rued that J-K would not be playing a single home match this season.
"We don't have any home advantage this season. Three out of our four victories last season were clinched at home," the J-K captain, the first cricketer from the state to have represented India, said.
"We have done so well despite lack of sufficient preparations (due to unprecedented floods in the Kashmir valley) which shows we have good potential. Due to the floods, the Srinagar boys, including myself, had a 15-day camp at Nagpur while the Jammu boys trained at their home town," said all-rounder Rasool.
Asked what he has told his teammates after his experiences with India and India A teams, Rasool said, "I have told them to inculcate self-belief."
Rasool also praised the batting of Khajuria as "commendable."
Asked whether he was worried about the lower order batting carrying the team home after the first innings collapse when they lost the last five wickets for one run, he said, "We are not as bad as was made out by that happening."
Coach Joshi ascribed the victory to "team effort."
"We did well in the one-day tournament (held before Ranji Trophy). Our bowling is good. We need to work some more on our batting. Playing away from home will give the team more exposure," said the former India left-arm spinner.
Brief scores: Mumbai 236 and 254 lost to J-K 254 and 237/6 by four wickets