There’s something about Mumbai’s cricket that makes them invincible. Thirty-nine Ranji titles, 32 more than the next best, Delhi, give them pride that borders on arrogance. It was apparent when skipper Ajit Agarkar was asked about the favourites’ tag on the eve of this game. “That’s the way it is,” he said.
At six down for 199 on Day One on a sluggish track, the game was tilted towards Services. But Mumbai have been through worse. In a 2006-07 season match against strong Baroda, they were five down for zero but went on to win that game.
So when Agarkar and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare ground out centuries and stitched 181 runs together in rain-curtailed Thursday’s 65 overs, without losing concentration, it was déjà vu in a way. The manner was boring against a pedestrian attack that relied mainly on discipline — Tare reached his 50 off 198 balls and the two put on 100 in 250 balls. But the slow wicket at the Palam grounds and situation demanded such watchful trudge.
Thanks to the vigil, which was interrupted in the morning by bad light and showers, Mumbai, at 380/6, seem like outbatting Services out of the game.
This was Agarkar’s fourth first-class ton in 109 games, which includes a Test century at Lord’s. While he worked around for runs to go with his 12 boundaries, Tare relied mainly on fours, hitting 16 in his 108*. In fact, he got there with a four off a cut through slip and gully. His second fifty came at a quicker rate.
While there are a few others who have got more runs than Tare’s 827 so far this season, none can match his versatility and commitment. When Wasim Jaffer was unavailable for the first few games, Tare opened the innings with reasonable returns. Then he batted lower down, and now in a crucial game like this, he may have given Mumbai a push to their 40th title.
No crowd at Palam
After the crowd went berserk on the first day — Sachin Tendulkar had to be escorted via the backdoor of the dressing room, the hosts sanitised the venue and denied entry to public on the second day.