Though Zaheer Khan’s incisive spell, that bagged him five wickets for 79, was crucial in Mumbai registering their first outright win of this Ranji Trophy season, it was Abhishek Nayar’s critical blows post-lunch that proved decisive in the end.
Nayar (3-56) once again proved his worth as a bowler with his medium-pace troubling the Madhya Pradesh middle-order and eventually leading the hosts to lose the plot at Indore’s Holkar Stadium yesterday.
Nayar claimed the wickets of Harpreet Singh (38), Ishwar Pandey (24) and Satyam Choudhary (5). He also had a hand in Jalaj Saxena’s run out for 128 — a wicket that undoubtedly pumped up the Mumbai players.
“It was certainly a huge wicket. I would like to think it was turning point of the match. That wicket changed everything. They (Saxena and Harpreet) were playing really well. So, it was important to break their partnership,” Nayar told MiD DAY.
Chasing a target of 311 on the final day, MP came tantalisingly close before being bowled out for 303. Mumbai now have 20 points but are placed fourth behind MP who are also on 20 but are ahead due to more outright wins.
At one point, MP were sailing smoothly with Saxena in complete control. Along with Harpreet, who was the penultimate batsman to fall in the day, the duo put on 40 for the fifth wicket. But Nayar effected a brilliant run-out off his own bowling to dismiss Saxena and with it, crush MP’s chances of a revival.
The discarded India player kept bowling a nagging line and was soon rewarded with the wicket of Choudhary, who was trapped leg before. Zaheer then got two quick wickets (Rahul Bakshi and Anand Rajan) before going for the kill.
“We all stuck to our roles. My job was to bowl a tight line. I wasn’t actually looking for wickets this time, honestly. My job was to not give away too many runs. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than this,” said a delighted Nayar.
The last half-hour of play was the most exciting as the match could have swung either way. MP’s No.11 Ishwar Pandey first hit Zaheer over mid-wicket for a six and then clubbed Nayar for a couple of huge ones over long-off to bring the equation down to eight runs. However, Pandey, in an attempt to hit Nayar for a third six, mistimed it and the substitute fielder at deep extra cover made no mistake.
“At one point, I am sure everyone wondered why we declared early. It was a very gutsy decision (to declare) indeed. With the way the match panned out, it proved to be a good decision. It is a special occasion for everyone in the team. There is a much-needed relief in the camp now,” Nayar signed off.