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Maharashtra 224 runs away from entering Ranji Trophy semi-finals

Paceman Anupam Sanklecha’s 4-57 helps visitors bundle out defending champions Mumbai for just 129 in the second innings at Wankhede

Anupam Sanklecha is keen to repeat history at the Wankhede Stadium. The medium-pacer contributed modestly, taking 1-39 in the first innings when Maharashtra last beat Mumbai outright in a Ranji Trophy match at the same venue in 2005-06 season.

Maharashtra’s Anupam Sanklecha celebrates the wicket of Mumbai tailender Javed Khan at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK.

Yesterday, it was Sanklecha again, the only playing member from the Maharashtra team that last won here, who made Mumbai dance to his tune as the hosts caved in dramatically in their second innings. He was the most impressive of the lot, claiming four for 57. The Ahmednagar lad was well supported by Samad Fallah (3-45) and Shrikant Mundhe (3-26) as 14 wickets fell in the day.

Mumbai failed to build on the sizeable first innings lead of 122 as they were bowled out for a paltry 129, setting Maharashtra a victory target of 252 in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final. The visitors were 28 for one, needing another 224 runs to win at stumps on Day Three.

Zaheer Khan claimed the wicket of opener Chirag Khurana for 17 in the last over of the day. Having conceded the lead, Maharashtra was pinning their hopes on Sanklecha to do something special. “My teammates were aware that I was a part of the team which won here last time. They motivated me to provide a special performance. That brought out something extra. I am glad it worked out well. I must thank the fielders, who took some brilliant catches behind the wicket. It is because of them that we are in a good position now,” Sanklecha told MiD DAY.

Earlier, Maharashtra bowlers came out all guns blazing after they were bowled out for 280, adding 61 runs to their overnight score of 219-7. Shardul Thakur (6-86) was the pick of the Mumbai bowlers.

There was a stark difference in the way Mumbai approached their second innings. They seemed to have no solution against the pacers — a reason their skipper Rohit Motwani did not find the need to introduce his spinners.
Wicketkeeper Motwani learnt from his mistakes in the first innings and always had the third slip in place – a move that fetched Maharashtra four top order wickets — in the slip cordon.

Sanklecha drew first blood, setting up Wasim Jaffer (0) beautifully on the third ball of the second over of the innings. In the next over, Fallah removed Jaffer’s partner Kaustubh Pawar for 5. A few overs later, Sanklecha removed Vinit Indulkar and Abhishek Nayar off back-to-back deliveries, leaving Suryakumar Yadav to face the hat-trick ball. Yadav (33), Iqbal Abdulla (27) and Shardul Thakur (33) showed some resistance in the end before Fallah and Mundhe cleaned up the tail.

Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni was disappointed with his team’s batting, but was confident the bowlers would bail them out again. “They still have to chase 224 runs to win this game. The contest is not over yet. Ideally, we would have liked to set a target of 350-400. But nevertheless, I am confident that we can still pull it off,” he said.

Maharashtra coach and former India selector Surendra Bhave tried to downplay the excitement in the camp. “You never know in cricket. The boys know 70 per cent of the work is still to be done. The wicket is still very lively. The boys were desperate to make up for their first innings failure. They wanted to prove a point. I have never seen such good bowling in my entire career,” Bhave signed off.

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