The writing is on the wall. If Mumbai fancy their chances of defending the Ranji Trophy title, they have to perform far better than what they have done against Jharkhand in their fifth game at the Wankhede Stadium.
The visitors, who according to their standings in the points table were perceived to be the weakest of the nine teams in Group A, had the 40-time champions struggling on Saturday, and yesterday, they ensured that they had done enough to virtually shut every escape route for Abhishek Nayar & Co.
Jharkhand ended Day Three on 176-5, an overall lead of 262 with five wickets in hand, after Mumbai were bowled out for 265 in the morning session, in reply to their opponents’ first innings total of 351.
Unless the hosts pull off a stunning reversal today, Shahbaz Nadeem’s men will walk away with at least three points from this game. Remarkably, these are the total number of points they won in their previous five games this season.
Fifty for Jaggi
At close, Ishank Jaggi was batting on 51 and had it not been for a couple of quick wickets towards the end of the day — Saurabh Tiwary falling for 38 and wicketkeeper Pappu Singh getting out for seven — Mumbai would have found themselves farther adrift.
Mumbai’s problems were compounded in the morning itself, when one of their lead bowlers, Akbar Khan was hit by a Varun Aaron delivery on the wrist and ended up fracturing it.
The inexperienced pace duo of Javed Khan (2-23) and Shardul Thakur tried their best, but were unable to provide the rapid breakthroughs that the hosts were looking for.
Resuming on 210-5, the odds were stacked against the defending champions, but given the presence of Suryakumar Yadav and Hiken Shah, who had already put on 96 runs before taking guard yesterday, there was still a sliver of hope.
However, the duo, who have occasionally contributed handsomely, could not make much headway with Yadav falling for 63 and Shah walking back on 58. Varun Aaron was the most successful bowler, taking 4-42 in his 22 overs.
We are positive: Hiken
The match may be gradually slipping away, but middle order batsman Shah insisted that Mumbai had still not given up on a shot at an outright win. “I think we bowled well after conceding the first innings lead.
We need to take the remaining five wickets as quickly as possible tomorrow and then go after the target. We are still positive about the result,” he said.
Not having Akbar in the XI when they strode out to bowl hampered Mumbai’s calculations but Shah felt the inexperienced attack led by Javed had tried their best and got five wickets. “Javed and Vishal (Dabholkar) maintained a disciplined line and were able to get the wickets,” he said.
On the other hand, Jharkhand are willing to play the waiting game and see how things pan out in the first hour of play before deciding on further strategy.
“We are in a good position as of now and will try to score as many runs as possible in order to set Mumbai a challenging target. For that, our lower order has to do well in the morning. So, let’s see how it works out,” said speedster Aaron.