Wasim Jaffer made batting look easy, even with Sachin Tendulkar as batting partner at the other end. The opener is unbeaten on 137, his more famous teammate having been dismissed for 108.
Mumbai at 272 for three moved towards a dominant position on the strength of a stroke-filled third wicket stand worth 234 between these two batting stylists against Baroda on day one of their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal.
The ball moved off the pitch at the Wankhede stadium, but Jaffer’s effortless drives through covers and flicks off the pads induced a sense of helplessness in Baroda’s bowlers. He moved from 50 (133 balls) to 100 in just 72 balls and is gearing himself up for another run feast.
Tendulkar’s was a more cautious, restrained knock in comparison. He cleared 50 in 105 balls, the century in 204 balls and was determined to spend more time at the crease when Baroda new ball spearhead Murtuja Vahora struck with an inswinger to take out the off-stump.
The batsman had spent 296 minutes at the crease and dealt with 232 balls (10x4, 1x6).
Vahora and young pacer Gagandeep Singh kept both batsmen on a leash with movement off the pitch in the session after tea when the sea breeze blowing across the Wankhede makes the ball do things.
Tendulkar was drawn across twice to balls pitched in the off-stump corridor and swinging away, both times he tried to cut and missed. Jaffer nicked a huge Gagandeep outswinger behind and Baroda captain Yusuf Pathan, fielding at first slip despite carrying a finger injury, put down the chance.
The opener, level with Ajay Sharma for maximum tons in this event at 31 centuries, corrected himself by the next over, bringing out the late cut to deal with left-handed Gagandeep’s outswingers.
Tendulkar scored in spurts, hitting on the rise and even swatting left-arm spinner Ketul Patel over the ropes for six runs. As if willing himself to play a long innings, he revelled in stealing singles with placements.
Pathan’s tactics as Baroda captain were bizarre, especially his choice of bowlers. Patel’s slow left-arm spin looked ordinary at this level, Jaffer and Tendulkar dancing out for audacious shots through the line and across.
Bhargav Bhatt, the other left-arm spinner, bowled flatter and appeared hesitant to tease the batsmen in the air.
Vahora and Gagandeep gained respect from Mumbai’s stalwarts for tight bowling, only for the spinners and part-timers to relax pressure.
The scores: Mumbai — 1st innings: W. Jaffer (batting) 137, K. Pawar lbw b M. Vahora 8, H. Shah c Pathan b B. Bhatt 9, S. Tendulkar b Vahora 108; Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-3, nb-1): 8; Total (for three wickets, 90 overs): 272.
Fall of wickets: 1-23, 2-35, 3-269.
Baroda bowling: M. Vahora 23-6-50-2, G. Singh 21-3-54-0, B. Bhatt 21-2-63-1, K. Patel 12-2-58-0, A. Chauhan 6-1-20-0, A. Rayudu 6-1-18-0, A. Waghmode 1-0-3-0.