Dhawan, Rayudu chip in as RoI makes 330 for five

Murali Vijay made another Irani Cup outing count with a solid century (116, 206b, 17x4, 1x6) against Ranji Trophy champion Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday.

The right-hander began the season with a 266 against Rajasthan in Bangalore last September in the first Irani Cup match. The other batsmen on scrutiny also did their best to impress the selectors, but the home team seamer, Dhawal Kulkarni, picked up just one wicket with the second new ball as Rest of India made 330 for five on the first day of the five-day match.

Left-hander Shikhar Dhawan made 63 and Ambati Rayudu 51, while Suresh Raina is batting on 36. Harbhajan Singh is leading the Rest team for the indisposed Virender Sehwag.

Looking to firm up his place in the 15-member Test squad against Australia, Vijay took full advantage of the circumstances that were conducive to batting.

He gave due respect to the new ball operators Kulkarni and Javed Khan in their first spells and in the second session, he played some brilliant shots. He was steady as well as flashy, like when he slashed Kulkarni’s short ball over the third-man for a six.

Vijay’s only lapse was on 79 when he nicked Shardul Thakur to wicketkeeper Aditya Tare, but umpire Subrato Das’ no ball signal brought an abrupt halt to the celebrations of the bowler and the ’keeper. When he departed, falling to Nayar after missing an inswinger that found its way to the off-stump, he had hit 17 fours and a six.

Mumbai replaced the injured Ajit Agarkar with Javed. The focus, though, was on the in-form Kulkarni, who — on the back of his 30-wicket haul in the Ranji Trophy — was expected to make use of the fresh wicket that had enough grass cover.

Kulkarni looked the part in his first spell of four and second spell of three overs. He beat the bat of both Vijay and Dhawan, but did not get the ball close enough to force an edge. He was well supported by Javed in the opening bursts, but gradually the left-right opening combination baulked the Mumbai bowling to put on 144 runs before Dhawan (101b, 11x4), aiming for a cover drive, lost his wicket after dragging a delivery from Thakur onto his stumps.

The pitch eased out further and the Rest batsmen — Manoj Tiwary, Rayudu and Raina — punished an attack that lacked teeth.

Batting appeared to be an enjoyable vocation against an attack that was handled by left-arm spinners Vishal Dabholkar and Ankeet Chavan.

Speaking later, Vijay said Mumbai is the champion team and that he and Shikhar Dhawan were initially cautious before getting on with their natural game.

“There was something happening in the wicket. Obviously it is a big game for me and the motivation level was high. I just wanted to give my best shot. I played a lazy shot and got out. I should have played a little more straight,’’ said Vijay.

The scores:

Rest of India — 1st innings: S. Dhawan b Thakur 63, M. Vijay b Nayar 116, M. Tiwary lbw b Nayar 37, A. Rayudu c Jaffer b Sharma 51, S. Raina (batting) 36, W. Saha lbw b Kulkarni 17, Harbhajan Singh (batting) 0, Extras (lb-4, nb-5, w-1) 10; Total (for five wkts. in 90 overs): 330.

Fall of wickets: 1-144, 2-222, 3-231, 4-309, 5-330.

Mumbai bowling: Javed Khan 14-4-41-0, Dhawal Kulkarni 17-3-64-1, Shardul Thakur 12-1-55-1, Vishal Dabholkar 18-2-64-0, Abhishek Nayar 19-9-49-2, Ankeet Chavan 5-0-33-0, Rohit Sharma 5-2-20-1.

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