Life is all about enjoying, especially in cricket. When Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha dropped Rohit Sharma off Ranadeb Bose in the first over of the second day, the classy Mumbaikar made the host pay dearly with a splendid unbeaten 200 that put his team in a position of command in the Ranji Trophy elite group ‘A' match at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.
Resuming with an overnight score of 287 for four, Mumbai declared its innings at 621 for eight immediately after the stylist right-hander reached his 200 with a shot to mid-on off Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary.
At close, Bengal was 28 for the loss of Arindam Das's wicket. Opener Shreevats Goswami and Rohan Banerjee were at the crease with 15 and 2 runs respectively.
When the reprieve came in the first over, Sharma was on 37. Bose, who surprisingly bowled only six overs in the only spell this morning, forced Sharma to edge to slips in his next over but the ball fell short off Goswami.
The two close calls were enough for Sharma to gather his wits and play his natural game. And what an innings he played. There were those fluent drives on either side of the wicket, the wristy flicks and glides, the backfoot on-drive, a rare commodity these days, and the pulls and square-cuts.
Sharma had another escape when on 128, this time Ashok Dinda dropped the waist-high catch off left-arm spinner Shiv Sagar Singh.
“His timing is the hallmark,” said former Test cricket Pranab Roy. “It was an innings of class and confidence. One of the best innings I have seen in recent times.”
For seven hours and 23 minutes, Sharma dominated the Bengal attack with 23 fours and three sixes, playing 257 balls.
Despite losing two wickets in Abhishek Nayar and Ajit Agarkar early, Sharma made sure of two very vital partnerships — for the seventh wicket for 144 runs with Iqbal Abdulla (81, 120m, 95b, 12x4) and an unfinished ninth wicket for 115 runs with Dhawal Kulkarni (37 not out) — that completely tilted the match towards Mumbai.
The loss of Arindam Das for eight runs will hurt Bengal when it resumes its battle to save the follow-on. Bengal needs 444 runs more to make Mumbai bat again.
Mumbai — 1st innings: Omkar Gurav c Arindam Das b Lahiri 38, Sushant Marathe (run out) 11, Ajinkya Rahane c Rohan Banerjee b Tiwary 110, Wasim Jaffer c Wriddhiman Saha b Tiwary 73, Rohit Sharma (not out) 200, Abhishek Nayar c Das b Bose 19, Ajit Agarkar c Saha b Dinda 4, Iqbal Abdulla b Lahiri 81, Ramesh Powar c Tiwary b S.S. Singh 38, Dhawal Kulkarni (not out) 37; Extras (b-1, lb-4, nb-2, w-3): 10; Total (for eight decl. in 163 overs): 621.
Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-84, 3-236, 4-237, 5-304, 6-313, 7-457, 8-506.
Bengal bowling: R. Bose 26-6-81-1, A. Dinda 33-3-130-1, L.R. Shukla 25-4-77-0, S.S. Singh 35-5-132-1, S. Lahiri 29-1-128-2, M. Tiwary 15-0-68-2.
Bengal — 1st innings: Arindam Das c Gurav b Salvi 8, Shreevats Goswami (batting) 15, Rohan Banerjee (batting) 2; Extras (b-1, nb-2): 3; Total (for one in 15 overs): 15.
Fall of wickets: 1-23.
Mumbai bowling: Agarkar 5-2-8-0, Kulkarni 5-2-14-0, Salvi 3-2-2-1, Powar 2-0-3-0 .