The jersey hung loose over a small paunch, stubble that he often liked to scratch and the familiar unstrained ease in his run-up. RP Singh couldn’t rev up much from the track that had a greenish tinge but didn’t throw up any noteworthy movement off it. At least, neither Singh nor Rush Kalaria managed any. Singh knew the morning session was his only opportunity, bowling 10 of his 12 overs then, but, barring some interesting facetime with Shreyas Iyer, he didn’t leave many stick-in-the-mind moments. On a day when Mumbai galloped along to 370 for 2, after Gujarat, who need atleast a first-innings lead to progress to knockouts, chose to field after winning the toss, three young men from Mumbai — Akhil Herwadkar, Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer — sent RP Singh and Co. on a leather hunt through the day.
Iyer has had a rollicking Ranji season so far, piling up runs with a jaunty ease. His mind always on attack mode, he has scored quick and scored a lot. Only blip was a stumble against an international bowler in a tour game, a misstep that often happens with young up-and-coming players. Iyer fell to Dale Steyn, edging one behind after a couple of airy wafts outside off in that game in Mumbai. For a batsman who seems eager to get on to the front foot, he had kept rushing back that day to Steyn, and fell to a length delivery. He has continued with his run-fest after that as well – a particular highlight was the attacking innings against the legspinner Karn Sharma from Railways on a fourth-day pitch that aided turn and had a convenient rough-patch for the leggie. But even if he doesn’t retain any bad memory of Steyn, it’s sort of an episode that stays in the mind of a watcher.
RP Singh welcomed Iyer with a bouncer that was ducked under and the over ended a ball later. Singh tried to surprise him with a yorker length next time but it homed in on a line outside off stump and Iyer, who was on the back foot, dug it out. Next few times he played RP, he stood inside the crease, sort of shifted his weight to the back leg, and carved and punched length deliveries through the off-side ring. Iyer seems to like frequent stance-shifts like that. His natural preference seems to be the one that allows him to lean on that front foot that just opens up around the time when the bowler releases the ball.
He cut and slashed Bhumrah, the mediumpacer who caught the attention in the IPL with that unique bowling action — his right hand springs up as if he was about to fix a light bulb into a socket before it comes down to hurl the ball.
After a upper-cut six and a wallop to the long-off boundary off Bhumrah, he fell, trying to upper cut the left-armer Kalaria. The delivery that came in from round the stumps ended up cramping him for room, and he tried to wriggle some room for himself by twisting but could only get a feather edge on the ball that was flying over his right shoulder. By that time, he had hit a breezy 75, with 10 fours and a six, to take the total to 174, and provided Mumbai momentum, and time, to advance merrily.
Two other men Akhil Herwadkar and Suryakumar Yadav, going through interesting times of their own, shared a rollicking 196-run unbeaten stand to put Mumbai on top.
Yadav buries past
Yadav had a ton, and scored 403 runs before this game but he was relieved, he said, after hitting this hundred after couple of dry games. His performances must be keenly followed by the Mumbai faithful for this comes on the back of a tumultuous last season. His over-aggressive batting approach, which didn’t yield consistent runs, was first criticised and then he had to quit captaincy mid-way which was not even the most noteworthy event last year. He was sent a show-cause notice by Mumbai Cricket Association for using foul language directed at MCA officials during a telephonic conversation with a team-mate that was subsequently leaked. In the past, with under-25 Mumbai teams, he has had a history of misdemeanour that had included a fist-fight with a team-mate.
This season has been refreshingly different so far. No controversies have trailed him and he has also shown a different batting approach. He has been a lot more cautious, rather circumspect at the start of the innings, and has batted with a slight restraint. “I am trying to play myself in, take more balls to settle,” he said on Tuesday evening and shared his relief, and joy, with the timing of this hundred ahead of the long break before the knockouts.
Herwadkar continued to show his concentration powers — he has worked hard with the likes of Chandrakant Pandit, Mumbai’s coach, and has focussed long and hard out there. Alternating between an upright stance for seamers, and a crouched stance for the spinners, he kept reeling those drives. He had a couple of heart-in-the-mouth moments – on 12, he jabbed at shortish delivery from Bumrah and saw Parthiv Patel miss a tough diving chance to his left, and on 39, he was again reprieved by Patel, who failed to gather the ball even as Herwadkar had stretched out his back leg, stumbled and fell off Axar Patel’s first ball of the game.
The knock against Gujarat was probably Surya Kumar Yadav’s most free-flowing one in this season. He settled in quickly and drove and punched his way around the seamers and took on the offspinner Ramesh Powar, who had a long-on and deep midwicket in place, and slugged him for a few sixes. Without any turn on offer, Powar decided to just lob across temptations but Yadav and Herwadkar kept going along merrily.
Brief scores: Mumbai 370/2 in 90 overs (A Herwadkar 143*, J Bista 44, S Iyer 75, S Yadav 103*) vs Gujarat.