IT was Shreyas Iyer’s attacking approach that had made Rohit Sharma bring up comparisons with Virender Sehwag. It’s not the batting style or the skill level for Iyer has quite a way to go before he can be compared with Sehwag but his aggressive mind-set that has caught everyone’s attention this season. More of that was seen on Thursday in the Ranji final as he slammed 117 on a pitch that was helpful to the seamers to take Mumbai to 262 for 8, earning a 27 run lead.
However, Saurashtra, who were tottering at 108 for 7 at one stage on the opening day before they recovered to 235, would be happy that they are still in the contest. Mumbai had reached 175 runs for just two wickets but Iyer’s wicket triggered a mini collapse.
Iyer counterattacked and rode his luck, including a lifeline on 37 with Mumbai on 50 for 2, when he was dropped in the second slip by Arpit Vasavada off the bowling of Deepak Punia. It was low but not a difficult catch, and one that might prove all the difference in the Ranji final. Iyer’s response to that drop was typical. Two balls later, he ran down the track to medium pacer Punia and thrashed him for a straight six.
There were a few heart-in-mouth moments through his flamboyant knock as he played and missed a bit but he continued with his aggression to drag Mumbai ahead. Mumbai would have been happier had he not fallen at the end of the day, failing to clear mid-off, but it’s been quite a season for him: Four tons, 1,321 runs, match-winning knocks and lots of lavish praise.
It was Iyer’s 152 run partnership with a patient Suryakumar Yadav (48 from 112 balls) that helped Mumbai recover from 23 for 2 but Iyer’s fall saw Mumbai slid from 175 for 3 to 262 for 8. He went for another big hit off Chirag Jani but was snapped up by Jaydev Shah at mid-off.
Saurashtra were left ruing that costly drop which could have significantly altered the result. After all, they had removed the Mumbai openers through Jaydev Unadkat’s double strike with just 23 on the board and if they had got Iyer, who knows what could have happened.
Iyer meanwhile continued to play his shots and whenever he found ball in his zone he was quick to dispatch it to the ropes. He jumped in excitement after reaching his hundred; a hundred in the final and on a pitch that had something for the seamers must have been very satisfying. Mumbai would have wished he had carried on a bit longer though as they could have really secured a firm hold on the match but as it turned out his wicket opened the gates for Saurashtra.
Mediumpacer Jani induced Mumbai captain Aditya Tare to edge to slips where this time Vasavada dived to his left to take a good catch. Punia got Yadav poking a length delivery in the corridor to Cheteshwar Pujara at slips. Vasavada dropped a sitter to reprieve Abhishek Nayar but he lost his wicket soon, out lbw trying to play across the line to the left-arm seamer Hardik Rathod.
The lanky Rathod got his team roaring back in to the contest by taking out Dhawal Kuilkarni and Shardul Thakur off successive deliveries. At stumps Mumbai had reached a 27-run lead with their last specialist batsman Siddhesh Lad and Iqbal Abdulla at the crease.
They would hope that the last two wickets can earn them some valuable runs, just like Saurashtra’s tail had wagged in the morning to progress from 192 for 8 to 235. The Saurashtra tail had batted aggressively, with Unadkat looting 16 from a Thakur over while the debutant Prerak Mankad managed to extend his to score to 66.
Earlier, they had bundled out Saurashtra for 235 runs, who had resumed overnight score of 192 for 8. Unadkat showed some powerful hitting where he amassed 31 runs off 26 balls which had two sixes and two fours. Unadkat scored 16 runs from Shardul Thakur’s one over whereas debutant Prerak Mankad managed to score 66. Saurashtra have made a great comeback in batting and bowling in the last two days, and it will be interesting to see how this game pans out on Friday.
Brief scores: Saurashtra 235 all out (Arpit Vasavada 77, Prerak Mankad 66; Dhawal Kulkarni 5/42) vs Mumbai 262/8 (Shreyas Iyer 117, Surya Kumar Yadav 48; Rathod 3/44, Jayadev Unadkat 2/55).