Wasim Jaffer has been a reliable bet for Mumbai for years, most recently playing a crucial role --that included two personal landmarks -- in helping the side to their 40th Ranji Trophy title.
Ajinkya Rahane has shown great temperament so far in his fledgling career. A batsman with a sound technique, he combines aggression and caution with panache and more often than not ends up making significant contributions to his team’s cause.
The two were at it again, helping Mumbai respond well to Rest of India’s (RoI) formidable first innings score on Day II of the Irani Cup at the Wankhede stadium, with a 132-run partnership for the second wicket.
Jaffer made an imperious 80, his 126-ball innings comprising of 11 boundaries and a huge six off Pragyan Ojha. However, his dismissal, shortly before the close of play -- caught behind off S Sreesanth -- nullified Mumbai’s advantage to an extent.
At stumps, the home team had reached 155 for two (in 43 overs), in reply to RoI’s 526. Rahane was batting on a well-made 55, and giving him company was night watchman Shardul Thakur (on four).
Earlier, Suresh Raina’s majestic 134 helped RoI build on their first day dominance and get past the 500-run mark. The left-hander’s 169 ball knock consisted of 14 boundaries and five majestic shots over it.
The 26-year-old found an able ally in Abhimanyu Mithun (51), the duo putting on 153 run for the seventh wicket, to ensure the visitors managed a formidable total.
Resuming at their overnight score of 330 for five, RoI lost their captain in the fourth over of the day.
Harbhajan Singh (16), having hit Dhawal Kulkarni for three boundaries in the morning, mistimed one from the bowler and Abhishek Nayar made no mistake at short cover.
In came Mithun, and he provided Raina the support he required to consolidate the innings further. A couple off Nayar helped Raina complete a well-deserved hundred.
The visitors went into the lunch break comfortably-placed at 487 for six, having added a whopping 157 runs (in 31 overs) to their total in the morning session, having lost just one wicket.
The first over after resumption, by Vishal Dabholkar, cost Mumbai 17 runs, Raina hitting the bowler for a boundary and a six even as RoI passed the 500-run mark. A boundary off the last ball of the over helped Mithun complete his half century.
The Karnataka player didn’t get much time to celebrate though, getting out leg before to Ankeet Chavan in the next over. Mithun’s 90-ball innings was inclusive of nine hits to the fence and one over it.
Pragyan Ojha (0) survived seven balls before hitting a Dabholkar delivery straight to Kulkarni at mid-on. Raina left in the following over, Chavan having him caught by Shardul Thakur at long-on. The bowler returned to have Ishwar Pandey (13) caught by Rahane at long on to bring the curtains down on the RoI innings.
If the morning session Mumbai had toiled sans reward the second session ensured the home team a surplus. It took them just 32 minutes to wrap up the RoI tail, the visitors losing their last four wickets for 39 runs to be dismissed for 526.
Mumbai began their innings on a disastrous note, losing opener Aditya Tare (6) in the fourth over of the innings, Pandey having him caught by Manoj Tiwary at gully.
However, the ever-dependable Wasim Jaffer and the promising Ajinkya Rahane combined well for the second wicket, taking the home team to 61 for one at tea (15 overs).
A single off Sreesanth by Jaffer, in the third over of the final session, helped raise the 50-run partnership for the second wicket. A boundary to fine leg, off Mithun, helped the vetran opener to complete his half century, his 80th in first class cricket, yet another significant contribution from this in-form player.
Harbhajan came into bowl in the 26th over and a single by Rahane, in what was the RoI captain’s third over, helped raise the 100-run partnership for the second wicket.
With the spinners failing to find the breakthrough, Pandey returned to bowl, replacing Ojha (7-1-29-0) in the 36th over. An off-drive from his second ball not only fetched Rahane his eighth boundary but also helped him complete his 22nd first class half century.
Sreesanth replaced Harbhajan (7-0-21-0) in the attack in the 40th over and struck with his second ball, claiming the prized scalp of Jaffer. With Sachin Tendulkar preferring not to take the field, Thakur was sent to negotiate the remaining overs. He did so, fairly comfortably at that.