Mumbai took a vice-like grip on its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal match against Maharashtra here on Thursday. After the host raised 402 in its first innings, Maharashtra went to stumps at 219 for seven, its hopes of making the semifinals probably dashed.
Challenged at the outset by a motivated group of seamers on a helpful Wankhede pitch, it was on a formidable score that the home team ended its innings by lunch on the second day.
And then, it let loose its young fast bowler Shardul Thakur.
Having seen the behaviour of the pitch for nearly one-and-a-half hours as a batsman, the Mumbai skipper Zaheer Khan opted to go for the jugular after the long break.
Given three slips, two gullies, a leg slip, a leg gully and a forward short-leg — never in its 40 years has the Wankhede seen such an intimidating field evocative of the Carmody ‘umbrella field’ — the 22-year-old Thakur responded superbly; he generated pace, extracted lift and delivered variations to procure the wickets of openers Harshad Khadiwale and Rohit Motwani in his initial burst of four overs.
Zaheer was a far cry from his best but still good enough to remove the confident looking Vijay Zol, and the Maharashtra innings was in dire straits midway through the seventh over.
Then, Ankit Bawne counter-attacked and forged a century stand for the fourth wicket with Kedar Jadhav.
But Mumbai regained control thanks to a big slice of luck that resulted in Jadhav’s departure. After reaching a well-compiled half-century in 108 minutes off 66 balls, Jadhav was surprised by a delivery from left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar — who he had despatched twice to the fence — that turned square and bounced, and ’keeper Aditya Tare pouched the thick edge.
The fourth-wicket stand gave ample evidence of the young Maharashtra batsmen’s fierce determination to compete, Bawne in particular.
He did enjoy his share of luck, though: when on five, Wasim Jaffer at second slip spilled an over-the-head chance, and then on 35 he was caught by third slip Vinit Indulkar off Thakur, only for South African umpire Denis Smith to declare it ‘no-ball’ after consultation with the third umpire.
Bawne (84, 130m, 113b, 12x4, 2x6) showed guts and gumption, and made the most of a field crowded around him. Eventually, he perished trying to deflect a short ball between the ’keeper and first slip, directing it into Tare’s gloves.
Maharashatra closed the second day 183 runs behind with only three wickets in hand.
Mumbai — 1st innings: Wasim Jaffer c Bawne b Mundhe 44, Kaustubh Pawar c Motwani b Fallah 19, Aditya Tare c Fallah b Sanklecha 3, Vinit Indulkar c Motwani b Sanklecha 82, Abhishek Nayar c Jadhav b Fallah 5, Suryakumar Yadav c Khurana b Sanklecha 120, Iqbal Abdullah not out 49, Shardul Thakur c Khurana b Fallah 4, Zaheer Khan c Khurana b Mundhe 39, Javed Khan c&b Darekar 14, Vishal Dabholkar lbw b Fallah 0; Extras (b-9, lb-8, nb-3, w-3): 23; Total (in 116.3 overs): 402.
Fall of wickets: 1-35, 2-55, 3-92, 4-101, 5-284, 6-295, 7-300, 8-362, 9-397.
Maharashtra bowling: Samad Fallah 35.3-6-103-4, Anupam Sanklecha 26-5-77-3, Shrikant Mundhe 29-7-85-2, Harshad Khadiwale 6-3-23-0, Akshay Darekar 16-2-60-1, Chirag Khurana 4-0-37-0.
Maharashtra — 1st innings: Harshad Khadiwale c Indulkar b Thakur 4, Rohit Motwani lbw b Thakur 0, Vijay Zol b Zaheer 15, Kedar Jadhav c Tare b Dabholkar 51, Ankit Bawne c Tare b Thakur 84, Sangram Atitkar c Indulkar b Thakur 8, C. Khurana c Pawar b Javed 21, Shrikant Mundhe (batting) 14, Akshay Darekar (batting) 16; Extras (b-1, lb-1, nb-2, w-2): 6; Total (for seven wkts. in 58 overs): 219.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-18, 3-24, 4-139, 5- 161, 6-170, 7-191.
Mumbai bowling: Zaheer Khan 11-1-40-1, Shardul Thakur 14-0-62-4, Javed Khan 12-1-44-1, Abhishek Nayar 8-1-20-0, Vishal Dabholkar 12-4-51-1.