Mohit Sharma was into his ninth consecutive over of a spell that saw 12 overs of hostile, short-pitched bowling to Mumbai batsmen and especially Sachin Tendulkar — the man he bowled in the first innings.
Tendulkar’s first reaction to a bouncer that pitched on and around off-stump was to duck, until he realised there was enough room to play his trademark upper cut. But he reacted too late. Tendulkar was grinning and so were everyone else on the park.
In a match that has seen 14 wickets fall on the first day, followed by 15 on the second, it was the perfect moment to ease all nerves. The third day of the match saw order restored to the contest — 218 runs were scored and seven wickets lost. Finally, it was old-school first-class cricket
While the day began with 17 runs scored from 14 balls until Haryana’s last man Harshal Patel perished, Mumbai batsmen put in the effort over 75 overs to inch to 39 runs shy of victory with four wickets in hand at stumps.
The match is tantalisingly poised for the final day. For Mumbai, retiring legend Tendulkar was unbeaten on 55 and fighting it out with Dhawal Kulkarni (6 no).
When Tendulkar walked out to bat after Haryana offie Jayant Yadav had snared Ajinkya Rahane (40) with a beauty, it had been a little over six months since he struck a half-century in any form of cricket.
His last fifty-plus score came on April 21 in an IPL match at Ferozshah Kotla. He broke that dry spell with a hard-fought knock, an uphill battle all the way through as two of his four boundaries came off edges. To his credit, the veteran stayed put as Haryana struck at regular intervals.
Ajay Jadeja, the Haryana captain, nearly succeeded with the many plans he hatched against his former India teammate. Initially, he had Mohit bowl a series of short balls down the leg side with a forward short leg.
The plan almost worked but the ball dropped just short of the fielder. But Mohit’s ploy worked against Kastubh Pawar (47) who, surprised by extra bounce, nicked to be caught behind brilliantly by Nitin Saini.
Tendulkar was patient, leaving many balls on length. Tendulkar was 30 balls into his knock when Jadeja finally removed forward short-leg and that allowed him the liberty to bring his wrists into play as he picked ones and twos to get off the blocks. His best moment of the day came late in the afternoon when he leaned forward to play a gorgeous extra cover drive.
While on 13, Tendulkar survived a big caught-behind appeal off Yadav and again on 53, a close lbw shout.
For a part-timer, Yadav was really impressive. And so was Jadeja’s captaincy as he tried to exploit Tendulkar’s waning footwork.
At the end of the day, Tendulkar was still there in his bid to make sure his last Ranji innings is for a winning cause.