Suresh Raina knew he had just the Irani Cup tie to impress the national selectors to claim a berth in the upcoming Test series against Australia. And the southpaw made the most of his only opportunity by slamming 134 (14 fours & five sixes) on Day Two of the five-day encounter to renew his stake for the No 6 spot that is up for grabs in the India Test team.
Raina’s 10th first-class ton and a timely 51 from Abhimanyu Mithun helped Rest of India post a mammoth 526 against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai on Day Two at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday.
Mumbai gave a fitting reply with Wasim Jaffer smashing a majestic 80. At stumps, the hosts were 155-2 with Ajinkya Rahane batting on 55 and nightwatchman Shardul Thakur giving him company on four.
Well aware that it was a make or break chance to make the cut against Australia, Raina was keen to score big. “I was not just looking to score a hundred and be satisfied. I wanted to score 150-160, so that I can be mentally tough for the challenges of batting in Test matches. When you score big hundreds, it definitely helps your batting improve in international cricket,” said Raina, who scored 55 and 0 in his last Test appearance against New Zealand in August, 2012.
Mumbai started the day well, dismissing RoI skipper Harbhajan Singh (16) in the fifth over of the day. But they failed to capitalise on the situation, courtesy some ordinary bowling. Thakur was particularly wayward and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare was seen having to dive in front of first slip to collect the ball on a few occasions.
Raina toyed with the ball at will, often dancing down the track to hit some towering sixes straight over the bowler’s head. He particularly plundered left-arm spinners Ankeet Chavan and Vishal Dabholkar for 29 and 38 runs respectively. A lofted straight shot over Dabholkar’s head for a six stood out. The Uttar Pradesh lad reached the three-figure mark with a stylish square cut.
Raina, who scored four half-centuries in the four batting oppotunities he got in the five-match ODI series against England recently, said he was keen to make up for missing out on a hundred against the Englishmen. “I was disappointed that I didn’t get any hundreds in the (England) one-dayers, so there was this strong desire to score one here. Fortunately, I did it. I am hitting the ball well. Hopefully, if I get a chance against Australia, I will prove myself again,” said Raina.
Back after the lunch break, Raina slammed a four and six off Dabholkar as runs continued to flow freely. Mithun, giving him good support, reached his 50 — the third half-century for RoI — after an inside edge raced to the fine leg boundary. The 153-run partnership between Raina and Mithun was finally broken after the latter was adjudged LBW for 51 off Chavan. RoI added another 21 runs before losing the last three wickets. Raina was one of them. Trying to accelerate the scoring, he had little room to swing his arms and ended up giving a simple catch to Thakur at long-on off Chavan.
“When Ojha got out, I felt I had to score quickly. I couldn’t just defend every ball because I was batting on 130. I needed to score as quickly as possible,” Raina concluded.
Rest of India: 526 all out in 130.1 overs (S Raina 134, M Vijay 116; A Chavan 3-56)
Mumbai: 155 for two in 43 overs (W Jaffer 80, A Rahane 55 not out; I Pandey 1-33)