After getting a lot of flak for their poor performances over the last two months, Mumbai are set to end their dismal Ranji Trophy campaign on a winning note. The hosts need just 14 more runs to achieve the victory target of 91 against Chhattisgarh, and escape from the threat of relegation.
It’s been a forgettable season for the 41-time Ranji champions. They were beset with a variety of problems: inconsistent team combination, injuries, lack of experience, lack of momentum, and it reached a state where the likes of Wasim Jaffer and Chandrakant Pandit, former Mumbai player and coach respectively, were aghast at the lack of passion in the team.
They were desperate to finish off well and evade the humiliation of relegation. With three quality pacers – Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur and Tushar Deshpande – they made sure that they used the green track at the Wankhede Stadium to their advantage.
The intent paid off – 17 wickets fell on the second day. Not that the Mumbai batting was great but it was considerably better than that of their opponents. Mumbai, who resumed on 118/3, were all out for 188 as medium pacers continued to enjoy their time at the venue, which has helped seamers all season.
The ball kept seaming, the movement never stopped, and batsmen needed to dig deep to stay at the crease. After conceding a 59-run lead, Chhattisgarh had a big task to turn things around in the second innings but the Mumbai seamers had them on a tight leash.
Thakur, playing just his second game of the season after suffering a groin injury, had the top order wobbling. He grabbed a four-for and his first-innings ally Deshpande too picked up four to dismantle the visitors.
Thakur later said that he is bowling at 90 per cent level, but will be in full flow soon.
“It’s slow progress but I’m progressing. At the moment, I am not worried about bowling speeds. I need to bowl as many overs in the match as I can. I want that experience to be back again, so that whenever I’m picked (for India), I can take that bowling load. Bowling speed will come in due time,” he said.
It wasn’t that Chhattisgarh just sat there, getting swallowed without trying anything. After slipping to 35/4, they even tried to counterattack. Vishal Singh decided to have a go at the seamers, swinging his bat around. He got a six and two fours off Deshpande and an over later, managed one more hit over the rope in addition to a four through the covers. Thakur tried to bowl short of length but missed his line and not only did Singh glance a four, he also picked up a sweetly-timed six over fine-leg.
It was medium pacer Shivam Dube who brought Singh’s 22-ball 47 to an end – an attempted flick producing an edge through to the ‘keeper. Deshpande, who finished with a five wicket-haul in the first innings, ran through the tail and put Mumbai on course for an early finish after the visitors were bowled out for 149.
By stumps, Mumbai had reached 77 without losing a wicket. Jay Bista and Vikrant Auti batted out patiently, and didn’t show any undue haste in trying to finish the game on the second day itself. The umpires extended the day’s play but it didn’t change the approach of batsmen, who will now be eying a bonus-point win.
In Mumbai: Chhattisgarh 129 and 149 (Vishal Singh 47, Amandeep Khare 33; Shardul Thakur 4/47) vs Mumbai 188 (Surya Kumar Yadav 43, Vikrant Auti 43; Pankaj Rao 3/53) & 77/0 (Jay Bista 36 not out, Vikrant Auti 32 not out)