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This was my chance to be a hero, says Iqbal Abdulla

Left-arm spinner, who claimed 11 wickets in the match apart from a valuable batting contribution, relishes opportunity to help champs beat Gujarat to enter Ranji Trophy quarters

Defending champions Mumbai needed a heroic effort to bail them out of trouble yesterday, and that’s exactly what Iqbal Abdulla came up with.

Iqbal Abdulla
Mumbai’s Iqbal Abdulla. Pic/Suresh KK

The left-arm spinner’s all-round show helped the 40-time champions seal a Ranji Trophy quarter-final berth in a low-scoring Group ‘A’ tie against Gujarat at Valsad yesterday. Abdulla, playing in only his second game of the season, scored 68 runs in the both innings (30 & 38) and finished with 11 wickets (6-42 & 5-44) in the match as Mumbai clinched a 27-run thriller at the Sardar Patel Stadium.

The match was on knife edge on the morning of Day Four yesterday with Mumbai needing seven wickets to win and Gujarat requiring another 108 runs to progress to the knockout stage. Abdulla had other ideas. “I was confident of doing well, but I just wanted an opportunity.

Luckily, I got it in this match. Another advantage was that I’ve played at Valsad before and had taken five wickets then, so  I knew the conditions well. Hero ban jane ka chance tha (I had a chance to be a hero) in this match. I am happy to have contributed to the win,” Abdulla told MiD DAY.
“Mentally, I’m quite strong and my focus was solely on this game as I had missed out on a few matches before.

I was keen to get back in the team. I had a good start to the season (four wickets vs Punjab). I would wait for Sundays when I could go out perform in my club games with the hope of making a comeback to the Mumbai side.

I kept working on my bowling and fitness. I ensured there was nothing lacking in my preparation,” added Abdulla, who turned 24 a month ago. Critics had written off this Mumbai team after they conceded the first innings to Gujarat.

And with all its junior teams knocked out in the league stages this season, the senior side’s early Ranji exit would’ve been catastrophic.

However,  in the absence of senior players like Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane (all on national duty), Dhawal Kulkarni and Abhishek Nayar (both injured) the youngsters in the team came up with a stunning show on the last two days of the four-day game to emerge triumphant.

‘Never gave up’
“The pressure of an outright win was huge, but we never gave up. We always believed we could win. We knew the wicket was not easy to bat on. We had set up a target of over 150 to be able to put up a fight. (Skipper) Wasimbhai (Jaffer) was our only senior player. So, it was important that we youngsters took responsibility,” said Abdulla.

Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni had recently told this newspaper that if his team qualifies for the knockouts, they will go on to win the championship. But before that, they have a tough quarter-final against Maharashtra (January 8 to 12) at the Wankhede Stadium.

Scorecard: Guj vs Mum (DAY 4)

Mumbai (1st innings) 154
Gujarat (1st innings) 253
Mumbai (2nd innings) 273
Gujarat (2nd innings) (overnight 67-3)
S Patel c & b Iqbal Abdulla 6
S Gohel c sub (E Kerkar)
B Iqbal Abdulla 0     
B Merai c Khan b Dabholkar 36     
P Patel c Shah b Dabholkar 5     
A Patel b Yadav 65
V Rao lbw b Iqbal Abdulla 17     
M Juneja c Yadav b I Abdulla 0     
R Dhurv c Yadav b Dabholkar 2     
C Gandhi lbw b Iqbal Abdulla 3
J Bumrah st Tare b Dabholkar 0 I Chaudhary not out 0

Extras (b 10, nb 3) 13     

Total (all out; 56 overs) 147

Fall of wickets 1-1 (Gohel, 0.3 ov), 2-20 (SK Patel, 11.4 ov), 3-28 (PA Patel, 14.4 ov), 4-104 (Merai, 32.1 ov), 5-135 (AR Patel, 44.5 ov), 6-137 (Juneja, 46.5 ov), 7-144 (Venugopal Rao, 48.5 ov), 8-144 (Dhurv, 49.1 ov), 9-147 (Gandhi, 54.6 ov), 10-147 (Bumrah, 55.6 ov).

Bowling
Iqbal Abdulla 19-4-44-5    
S Thakur 8-0-35-0 
J Khan 2-2-0-0
V Dabholkar 19-6-33-4     
P Tambe 2-0-10-0
S Yadav 6-2-15-1

Result: Mumbai won by 27 runs

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