Murali Vijay scored a consecutive Irani Cup century albeit with a hurt wrist as Rest of India (RoI) dominated the opening day of the five-day fixture against newly-crowned Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday.
Vijay, who had notched a double ton (266) against last year’s Ranji champions Rajasthan in Bangalore at the start of the previous season, showed no sign of discomfort during his brilliant 116 off 206 balls (17 fours & one six) as RoI ended the day on 330 for five. At stumps, Suresh Raina was unbeaten on 36 while skipper Harbhajan Singh was yet to open his account. Hosts Mumbai did claw their way back towards the end of the day, but the damage was already done thanks to a wicketless first session.
Mumbai’s stand-in skipper Abhishek Nayar’s decision to bowl, heavily backfired. Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay put up a 144-run stand as Mumbai’s new ball bowlers bowled too short and wide.
While the openers looked set to post a big score, Dhawan (63) needlessly threw his wicket away, chopping a wide delivery onto his stumps. Shardul Thakur, who got the unexpected breakthrough, was thrilled.
Vijay, meanwhile, continued his run flow despite a heavily strapped wrist. He cut and drove with elegance, and hardly played a false stroke. Vijay brought up his 50 with an elegant cover drive. Thakur almost had Vijay when he was on 79. Inducing him into the drive, Vijay got an edge and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare made no mistake. However, the joy was shortlived as the umpire declared it a no-ball.
Vijay was dismissed by a fine Nayar inswinger that sneaked in through the gap between bat and pad. This was Nayar’s second dismissal off an inswinger — the previous being Manoj Tiwary trapped LBW for 37.
“I was a bit lazy. I could have played a little more straighter on that occasion,” said Vijay about his dismissal.
Though Nayar tightened one end with some excellent bowling, Ambati Rayudu seemed difficult to contain. He raced away to 51 with nine fours, before a bowling change did the trick. Rohit Sharma was overjoyed when he was finally rewarded with Rayudu’s wicket. After being dropped at slip once by Wasim Jaffer, the senior Mumbai batsman made no mistake when a second opportunity came around.
The star of Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy final victory, Dhawal Kulkarni then struck in the penultimate over of the day, trapping Wriddhiman Saha (17) leg-before to initiate a fightback. Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni admitted his bowlers erred at the start. “Initially, we didn’t bowl too well, but overall, we did a good job. On this wicket, 330-5 is not a bad effort. A few wickets earlier would have changed things though,” he said.