Mumbai began the second day of the Ranji Trophy final in Mumbai on Sunday attempting to strengthen their stranglehold over Saurashtra.
They ended it having considerably ceded the advantage to their opponents.
If Day One was about the home team getting into a good position, by dismissing the visitors for a paltry 148 in the first innings, the second day was all about a comeback from the latter.
Mumbai managed to build on their advantage that to an extent, but not exactly in the manner they would have liked to. For Saurashtra managed to take wickets at regular intervals, largely owing to poor application by the opposite batsmen, to get right back into the game.
At stumps, the home team had reached 287 for six (after 94 overs), a lead of 139 runs with the tail exposed and a lot left to ponder, for they had been guilty of complacency.
Resuming at their overnight score of 19 without loss, Mumbai made slow progress early on the second morning. The team plan was clear, not to allow the visitors an early wicket.
The home team succeeded in their plan in the first hour, Jaffer and Kaustubh Pawar (21) putting on 75 runs for the opening wicket before Siddharth Trivedi provided Saurashtra with a much-needed breakthrough, catching the latter of his own bowling.
Mumbai added just 69 runs in the morning session, reaching 88 for one in 38 overs at lunch.
The second session yielded better results for the visitors. In the third over after resumption, Saurya Sanandiya had Aditya Tare (3) caught by Aarpit Vasavada at first slip.
In came Sachin Tendulkar to a thunderous applause from a decent Sunday crowd, a majority having come especially to see him bat.
The veteran batsman and Jaffer put on 68 runs for the third wicket helping the home team taking the lead in the process (in the 52nd over).
However, just when Tendulkar looked to have settled down, having hit three well-timed boundaries, a lack of communication between him and the opener resulted in his premature dismissal, with Kamlesh Makvana’s direct hit doing the damage.
For the record it was the first time that the Master Blaster had been run out in Ranji Trophy. And his depature for 22 also saw the departure of a sizeable audience at the Wankhede stadium.
Jaffer, when on 83 surpassed former team mate Amol Muzumdar (9105 runs) to become the highest scorer ever in the country’s top domestic competition. Also his 83rd run helped Jaffer reach 16,000 runs in first class cricket.
The 34-year-old soon completed his century with a cover drive off Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, with his 12th boundary of the innings.
It was Jaffer’s 32nd Ranji Trophy hundred, a record besting Ajay Sharma’s (31) longstanding mark. It was his third for the season following his 171 against Gujarat and 150 against Baroda in the quarter-finals. It also continued his good run of form against Saurashtra, having scored 79 and 71 in the group match at Rajkot.
Considering Jaffer joined the Mumbai team only after they had played in four of their eight group matches, the opener has impressed since, aggregating 835 runs in seven matches.
Jaffer though was fortunate on three occasions, the third just before tea when he was on 107. Sheldon Jackson’s throw was spot, with the batsman struggling to reach the crease, but Sagar Jogiyani messed it up, denying his side a third wicket in the session.
Mumbai reached 181 for three in 61 overs at tea, with Abhishek Nayar smashing Jadeja over long on for a six in the last over.
A boundary to square leg by Nayar, off Makvana, helped the home team get past the 200-run mark soon after resumption. Another single by the same batsman, in the next over by Jadeja, helped raise the 50-run partnership for the fourth wicket, one that had been attained at almost a run-a-ball.
However, Nayar soon paid the price for being overly aggressive, hitting a Makvana delivery straight to Jaidev Unadkat at midwicket. He made 26, taking his tally for the season to 964.
The 29-year-old, Mumbai’s highest scorer this season, will need his team to bat a second time if he is to replace Punjab’s Jiwanjot Singh (995 runs) as the season’s top scorer.
Soon after, Jadeja, who had been expensive through the day, added to the wickets column in his figures in what was his 15th over, with a vital wicket at that. The left-arm spinner got Jaffer out leg before, the batsman’s 246-ball innings inclusive of 16 hits to the fence and a solitary one over it.
Two overs later, another leg before decision handed Jadeja his second wicket, Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar (2) being the victim on this occasion.
Hiken Shah (41 not out) and Dhaval Kulkarni (18 not out) ensured there was no further damage before stumps, with a 50-run stand for the seventh wicket.