They came in numbers and created an atmosphere worthy of a Ranji Trophy semi-final,with only one intention: Watching Sachin Tendulkar do what he does best with the bat. And once Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer won the toss and elected to bat,their anticipation of what was to come was evident.
But the large Sunday crowd at the MA Chidambaram Stadium were forced to be content with just a sighting of their superhero taking a few knocks at the end of the first day,with Mumbai comfortably placed at 268-1.
What it did mean though was that the focus remained deservedly on the real heroes of the day,Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane,both of whom crossed the 1000-run mark in Ranji Trophy this season. On a pitch that provided little or no assistance to neither spinners nor fast bowlers,Jaffer was his usual self as he took time to settle down before getting into grinding the Saurashtra bowlers down,and remained unbeaten on 162 at stumps.
He started off by letting fellow opener Vinayak Samant take most of the strike against left-armers Sandeep Jobanputra and Rajkot wrecker-in-chief Balkrishna Jadeja. But once the diminutive wicket-keeper was trapped leg-before by Rakesh Dhruve for a well-made 49,the skipper took control of the situation.
Samants dismissal seemed to increase the anxiety in the stands,as their moment seemed just a bad shot or a good ball away. But the incoming batsman was someone who needed just 24 runs to become the first Mumbai batsman since Rusi Modi in 1948-49 to cross the 1000-run landmark in a Ranji season.
The 20-year-old Rahane started slowly,while Jaffer put the bowlers to the sword,as he kept stepping down the wicket to Dhruve and Jadeja,and hitting them over their heads to the fence.
Moment of glory
A couple of overs after Rahane hit Kamlesh Makhwana for the only six and raised his bat as he crossed 24,it was Jaffers moment of glory,as he joined his younger partner in the record-books.
The two have enjoyed a love affair in the middle during the season,having already notched up four century stands,including a 335 against Hyderabad. It was déjà vu as they looked in no trouble against the likes of Jobanputra and even talented left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja,who with 39 wickets is the top-wicket-taker at this stage of the competition,in putting together an unbeaten 130-run partnership.
Jaffer now expects his batsmen to put up a huge first innings score. They (Saurashtra) do tend to play defensive cricket. Im confident that Ajit (Agarkar) and Zaheer (Khan) will get much more assistance on this wicket, he said.
But for now,his focus will surely be on stretching both his individual and the teams score to a satisfactory position,while the Chennai faithfuls will be hoping to get a glimpse of genius sometime during Monday.