Ranji Trophy final: All-round Shardul keeps Mumbai-Vidarbha match in balance | Crickit
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Ranji Trophy final: All-round Shardul Thakur keeps Mumbai-Vidarbha match in balance

Mar 10, 2024 10:22 PM IST

Vidarbha reduced hosts Mumbai to 111/6 before the all-rounder launched the recovery with a robust 75.

Vidarbha were in Mumbai's den but the visiting bowlers roared on Day 1 of the Ranji Trophy final at the Wankhede Stadium before Shardul Thakur's spunky 75 brought the 41-time champions right back into the game. Three strikes late in the day reduced Vidarbha to 31/3 to balance the day’s proceedings after Mumbai, asked to bat first, were bundled out for 224.

Shardul Thakur once again produced an all-round show for Mumbai.
Shardul Thakur once again produced an all-round show for Mumbai.

Mumbai though would introspect over 35 minutes of batting madness before lunch when they slipped from 81/0 to 99/4.

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After the first hour’s play, things were going to plan for Mumbai as they raced past fifty to leave Vidarbha wondering if they had got it so wrong with Akshay Wadkar's decision to bowl. In between his occasional play and miss, Prithvi Shaw would stroke plenty of punishing drives as Vidarbha’s fast bowlers sprayed the ball on a pitch which had enough life.

The window of opportunity arrived when Bhupen Lalwani chased one outside off-stump on 37 off pacer Yash Thakur. Vidarbha skipper Akshay Wadkar took a one-handed catch diving to the right and the tide turned.

With his repertoire of strokes, Shaw can swing the match his team’s way. But spending extended time at the crease is something Shaw has often failed at. Misjudging the length of young Harsh Dubey’s classical left-arm spinner's delivery led to his undoing. Shaw (46-63b) swept for glory only to see his stumps disturbed. Teenager Musheer Khan (6) then closed his bat face too early against Dubey to be trapped in front. The 21-year-old’s strikes set Mumbai back. But his best wicket was yet to come.

Mumbai’s batting reservoir was brimming with talent. In walked Shreyas Iyer, with a point to prove. Vidarbha were quick to welcome him with the short ball. After facing 15 searching deliveries, Iyer (7), discarded from the Test team and BCCI's central contract, poked at Umesh Yadav’s rising delivery to be caught at first slip. At 109/4, lunch would not have tasted too well for Mumbai.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Hardik Tamore and out-of-form skipper Ajinkya Rahane were dismissed early in the second session at the score of 111 as Vidarbha left Mumbai staring down the barrel. Dubey later spoke of how delighted he was to get Rahane – he had marked his wicket as a personal target – by drawing him forward and beating him in flight with the half-hearted shot caught at mid-off.

THAKUR'S COUNTER

That’s when Shardul Thakur took over, like he did with a century in the semi-final against Tamil Nadu. For all the 'Lord' meme he attracts, the India all-rounder stands out with his ability to stand up when the chips are down. Thakur's first shot of intent was stepping out against Dubey’s spin to send the ball to widish long-off boundary. It drew the biggest cheer from the Vijay Merchant pavilion – the packed stand in the stadium celebrating its golden jubilee.

Three balls earlier, Rahane had failed to clear the circle. How form is a fickle friend and confidence can take you places.

Thakur continued his clean striking, stepping out against spinners and punching and pulling hard off the back foot against pace. He had some close shaves, survived some difficult dropped catches, but did not temper his approach much. Thakur brought up his 50 in 37 balls, and by the time he was the last man dismissed (75 - 69b, 8x4, 3x6), he had saved Mumbai the blushes.

“The life that I have lived, travelling from Palghar to Mumbai with a kit bag in train, it has toughened me up. When I am in a tough situation, I go back to that mindset as a kid growing up,” Thakur said.

Dubey (20-3-62-3) and Yash Thakur (11-2-54-3) topped the bowling charts for Vidarbha with the seasoned Umesh Yadav picking two wickets.

In response, Mumbai pace bowlers found ways to eke out three quick wickets. Thakur capped his day of brilliance with the opening wicket, trapping Dhruv Shorey at the crease for nought. Playing his final first-class match, Dhawal Kulkarni lifted his game to get Aman Mokhade (8) and Karun Nair (0) to nick catches, galvanizing Mumbai.

“We felt the pitch will get slow as the game goes on and that’s what has happened. We bowled in the right areas therefore we got the

three wickets, but there’s nothing in the pitch,” said Thakur, suggesting that despite the green look and 13 wickets falling in the day, wicket-taking may remain hard work.

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