The contest between angry,frustrated pacers and tailenders with a death wish has its own charm. Thats the closest cricket comes to being a combat sport. Bowler running in hard,ball aimed at head,wild swing of the bat,play and miss,aggressive follow-through,cold stare,angry exchange and finally the reluctant withdrawal. The back-off,actually,is merely a break before a fresh locking of horns.
In the days of disciplined bowlers and long batting lineups,such entertaining exchanges have become rare. But Lahli saw one such old-style battle towards close of play on Day Two.
With Haryana nine down,a charged-up Zaheer Khan wanted a quick end to their innings. A wicket would have seen him finish with a five-for and his team would have known the fourth-innings target they would chase on Day Three of this Ranji Trophy match. Having taken the wickets of Haryana old hands Ajay Jadeja (a painful,21-ball duck) and Joginder Sharma (2) in the space of 10 balls,Zaheers bowling revealed desperation. He bowled short in an effort to intimidate Haryanas No. 9 and No. 11,but Harshal Patel and Ashish Hooda werent the nervous kind. Showing remarkable survival skills,they took Haryanas score from 206/9 to 224/9 at stumps. Mumbais two-run first innings lead meant Haryana were ahead by 222 with a wicket in hand.
The game isnt expected to go the distance. Day Three could well be the final day of this game and 29/10/2013 could well be the date when Tendulkar wears the Mumbai colours one last time. The stage is set for an intriguing chase and the precursor for the grand departure at Wankhede in little over a fortnight. Lahli might chant Sachin,Sachin all day.
The wave that brought a fall
It was one such chant that triggered Haryanas collapse. At 186/5,Haryana dreamed of reaching around 300. The hard yards put in by Rahul Dewan (44) and Sunny Singh (63) had helped and with Jadeja and Jayant Yadav (45) at crease,the chance of another big partnership was bright. Thats when Tendulkar at mid-on did a Jadeja on Jadeja. He waved at the crowd each time Zaheer began his run-up,triggering pandemonium in the stands behind him. On one occasion,Jadeja moved away,distracted by the spike in the decibel levels. Soon he lost concentration and was caught in the slips.
Zaheer got rid of Joginder soon after. Hooda and Patel,however,defied and delayed Mumbais march. The left-arm pacer,who is in line for a recall to the Test squad,was at his best in his final spell. He bowled 19 overs for his four wickets,but wasnt particularly penetrative early on. With the new ball,on a wicket that helped the seamers,he wasnt the threat many thought he would be. That might have been the reason for his frustration towards the end of the Day.
Brief scores: Haryana 128 and 224/9 in 68 overs (Sunny Singh 63,Jayant Yadav 45; Zaheer Khan 4/59,Vishal Dabholkar 4/54) vs Mumbai 134 in 35.5 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 51,Dhawal Kulkarni not out 25; Joginder Sharma 5/16,Mohit Sharma 2/36).