Mumbai 262 for 8 (Iyer 117, Suryakumar 48, Rathod 3-44, Jani 2-46, Unadkat 2-55) lead Saurashtra 235 (Vasavada 77, Mankad 66, Kulkarni 5-42, Thakur 3-89) by 27 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Shreyas Iyer continued his excellent form and stroked his sixth first-class century © John Michel
There are those who take the pitch out of the equation when they bat. Then there are others whose presence makes the pitch look its lively best. On Thursday, Saurashtra witnessed both as the 40-time Ranji champions lost a clutch of wickets after Shreyas Iyer‘s sparkling century, leaving the Ranji Trophy final delicately poised in Pune.
For an hour on the second morning, Mumbai were rattled and perhaps even caught off guard by Jaydev Unadkat‘s late onslaught, a 26-ball 31, that lifted Saurashtra from their overnight 192 for 8 to 235. Then, his twin blows accounted for the Mumbai openers – Akhil Herwadkar (0) and Bhavin Thakkar (6). Iyer, who walked out to the pressure of the situation, provided a fine cocktail of timing and power.
His sixth first-class century, laced with 15 fours and two sixes, made him the highest run-getter in a season for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy history. It helped them wipe out the deficit before a lower-order collapse left Mumbai delicately placed at 262 for 8, with a lead of 27, when stumps were drawn.
Saurashtra, who could have been dead and buried if not for Iyer’s loose dismissal, would need to ensure they dismantle the tail cheaply and blunt the bowling on the third morning, where the surface is usually at its menacing best.
Only time would tell if Arpit Vasavada’s dropped catch of Iyer could become the Indian version of Steve Waugh’s famous words: ‘you just dropped the cup, mate.’ But there was no denying the fact that it had a big bearing on the turn of events. Having slipped to 23 for 2, Iyer came out with positivity and intent, and raced along to 37, before nicking one to second slip, where Vasavada grabbed at the ball, only to see it bobble out.
A third wicket at that stage, just before lunch, would have handed the advantage to Saurashtra. But that missed opportunity punctured them. Over the next two hours and a bit, Mumbai showed why they were bullies in the domestic circuit. The surface did ease out as the day progressed, but not to the extent that Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav, who put together 152 for the third wicket, made it look.
While Mumbai were benefited by the persistence of Balwinder Sandhu and Abhishek Nayar, who played the holding role superbly to complement Dhawal Kulkarni, Saurashtra’s attack started and ended with Unadkat during the course of the bludgeoning stand. The absence a Plan B when faced with Iyer’s charge left them ducking for cover.
When Unadkat had the new ball in hand, it looked like the game was played on a different surface. He made deliveries hold its line off a length to trouble batsmen more than those that swing both ways. With the back-up pace battery of of Hardik Rathod, Deepak Punia, Chirag Jani and Prerak Mankad offering drivable deliveries at a friendly pace, it was a batting feast for Iyer with Suryakumar providing able assistance.
But the ease at which Iyer was scoring runs, perhaps brought out one big hit too many as an attempted loft over the infield resulted in a miscue to mid-off, shortly before tea. Saurashtra’s reaction – relief, and not elation at having dislodged the key batsman – summed up the state of the game. After the dismissal, however, Aditya Tare and Suryakumar, looked to sustain the healthy scoring rate, but a change of ball brought about a change of luck for Saurashtra.
Tare was consumed by late swing as the bat came down at an angle, leading to a nick to the cordon. Suryakumar continued the trend of edging behind as he poked away from the body to give Punia his first wicket. Nayar then chanced his bat to make a streaky 19, surviving a dropped chance by Vasavada, before playing down the wrong line to a full ball. A wobble turned into a proper crisis when Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur were dismissed off consecutive deliveries by a fired-up Rathod.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo