Vineet Saxena notched up his second century of the season and Hrishikesh Kanitkar was on the threshold of his third as Rajasthan slowly tightened the noose around Mumbai on the second day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here on Saturday.
Saxena (111) and Kanitkar (96) shared an unbroken stand of 206 runs for the second wicket to help the home team close the day at 236 for one in its first innings in reply to Mumbai's 252. Standing on a very strong foundation, Rajasthan, still 16 runs behind, is now eyeing to outbat the opponent.
On a pitch that was slowing down rapidly, it was more a mind game for both sides. The Mumbai bowlers tried to play on the patience of the host batsmen after the early morning help dried up sooner than later.
Saxena and Kanitkar responded well to the challenge on the strength of their rock-solid determination and clear planning. Rajasthan, resuming at 17 for no loss, was nurturing the bigger aim of winning the contest than scoring runs at an entertaining pace — 219 runs in 89 overs.
Both Saxena and Kanitkar trained their minds well not to take any risk. They kept their bats straight and got behind the ball to blunt the tight line of the Mumbai bowlers. Saxena, starting on his overnight score of 12, rarely lost focus.
His exemplary placement all over the park (except through point) earned him 14 boundaries and a six. The 30-year-old pushed Avishkar Salvi to extra-cover for three runs to reach his eighth first-class hundred.
“I had scored a century before throwing away my wicket in our last match against Mumbai (in 2007); we had lost that match by two runs. It still pinches me. So I did not want to throw my wicket this time,” said Saxena. He said the plan was to bat as long as possible to deny Mumbai any chance of staging a comeback.
Kanitkar was equally gritty. Except for a few troubling moments against Salvi after Mumbai chose to take the second new ball in the 81st over, Kanitkar sailed smoothly into the 90s.
The Rajasthan skipper, who scored his last five runs off 25 deliveries, found more purpose in saving his wicket towards the fag end of the day. The elegant left-hander hit 14 fours, which included two nicely-timed shots off the spinners over mid-on.
For Mumbai, Ajit Agarkar, who successfully appealed to claim Aakash Chopra in the fifth over of the day, waged a lone battle. He got very little in terms of support from his fellow pacers. The visiting spinners too experienced a tough day.
The scores: Mumbai — Ist innings: 252
Rajasthan —Ist innings: A. Chopra lbw b A. Agarkar 17, V. Saxena (batting) 111, H. Kanitkar (batting) 96; Extras (b-4, lb-3, nb-2, wd-3) 12, Total (for one wicket, 95 overs) 236.
Fall of wicket: 1-30
Mumbai bowling: A. Agarkar 22-6-57-1, A. Salvi 20-8-34-0, A. Shaikh 14-5-27-0, A. Nayar 14-4-42-0, R. Powar 13-4-30-0, I. Abdullah 10-2-29-0, R. Sharma 2-0-10-0.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy