‘No matter how many runs a team scores, it’s their ability to take the 20 opposition wickets that ultimately decides the fate of a match,’ goes the old adage. Mumbai are living up to this and how in the ongoing Ranji Trophy!
They have already recorded two wins in three games thus far, and given their performance against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday, they are well on course to win their third match. Mumbai bowled them out for a paltry 113 after putting up a modest 261 in the first innings, thanks largely to a lion-hearted contribution of 139 by veteran opener Wasim Jaffer, and then ended the day on 179-1, with Aditya Tare batting on 110 in the company of Ajinkya Rahane on 62. They are already 327 runs ahead and it will take nothing short of a miracle for Vidarbha to pull them back.
Unlike last season when the 40-time champions had to scramble to make their way into the quarter-finals, Mumbai are well on course to enter the knock-out stage, and if that’s the case barely half way into the season, it’s thanks largely to their bowlers’ contribution.
They bowled Haryana out for 134 and 241 in the first game with paceman Zaheer Khan, all-rounder Abhishek Nayar and left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar playing crucial roles with four wickets each. In the next match against Punjab, it was Dabholkar who returned with 10 wickets in the game and although they could only draw their match against Delhi, paceman Zaheer Khan took a fifer to ensure the two teams were tied on the first innings.
Yesterday, paceman Shardul Thakur, playing his first match of the season, returned with figures of 3-40 while Zaheer and debutant paceman Akbar Khan took two wickets apiece.
“The reason for a good start to the season has been that we have been playing on sporting wickets,” said Thakur after the second day’s play yesterday. “Haryana game took place on a track that supported pace bowling. Spinners got a lot of help against Punjab. And here, it’s both the pacemen and spinners who have made the most of the conditions,” he added.
“Apart from that, I think we have also improved our bowling. We are learning a lot from Zaheer’s presence and I hope to continue improving,” said the bowler who has shed 12kgs in the past nine months to get ready for the season.
Meanwhile, this is the first time the two sides have met in the long history of India’s premier domestic tournament, and the difference in the quality of the teams was exposed brutally by the Mumbai.
The hosts, who began the day on 254-8 could not extend their lead much further and lost Dabholkar and Jaffer in quick succession with paceman Sandeep Singh emerging the best of the visiting bowlers, taking 4-35. Thereafter, Vidarbha got off to a relatively sound start reaching 22 before opener Amol Ubarhande (13) was bowled by Akbar, allowing the 6’5’’ tall bowler to celebrate his maiden first-class wicket. Thakur was in the thick of things 13 runs later when he had Ravi Jangid caught by wicketkeeper Tare for eight.
Zaheer jolted them with two wickets in the 14th over of the innings. He got rid of skipper Shalabh Shrivastava (5) and Hemang Badani (0), and whatever hopes they had of a fight back was blown to dust.