Joginder Sharma stole the limelight with five-wicket haul while Sunny Singh led a spirited batting effort as Haryana staged a remarkable fightback to leave their Ranji Trophy opener against defending champions Mumbai evenly poised, in Lahli, Haryana, on Monday.
Eyeing a comeback to the Indian team, Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan claimed four wickets, including two at the fag end of the second day's play, to leave Haryana on 224 for nine when stumps were drawn.
The hosts lead by 222 runs, having dismissed Mumbai for 136 in their first innings. Haryana scored 134 in their first essay.
Haryana rode on Joginder's inspiring spell of five for 16 before 26-year-old Sunny led the way with a 63-run knock to frustrate the visitors.
Left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar picked three wickets for Mumbai but he will be disappointed at being hit for two sixes and a four by Harshal Patel in the day's penultimate over.
Resuming at the overnight score of 100 for four, Mumbai lasted less than two hours before being bowled out for 136, for a slender two-run lead in their first innings.
Given that 30 wickets tumbled in two days, it will not be easy for Mumbai to chase whatever Haryana sets them from hereon on this sporting wicket. But the 40-time champions' have a good batting line-up to chase down the target.
Considering Mumbai's depth in batting, Haryana's last pair would like to add as many runs as they can to their total on Tuesday.
Starting the day on 44, Ajinkya Rahane added seven runs before being trapped in front by Joginder barely five overs into the day's play.
Rahane's 108-ball 51 included nine hit to the fence, and it was his wicket that opened the floodgates.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Aditya Tare was out next ball, caught in the slips by Sachin Rana.
Using the lively pitch and helpful conditions to good effect, Joginder soon had Hiken Shah as he induced an edge for ‘keeper Nitin Saini to complete an easy catch.
The 30-year-old Joginder, known for his last-over exploits in the final of the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, was not done yet as he sent back Javed Khan, leaving Mumbai reeling at 118 for seven and in danger of conceding the first-innings lead.
Sent in as night-watchman on Sunday evening, Dhawal Kulkarni put up stiff resistance, scoring 25 useful runs. Though it may not prove too significant in the context of the match, it certainly helped Mumbai overtake Haryana's first-innings total by just two runs.
There were two wickets apiece for Harshal Patel and Mohit Sharma while Ashish Hooda had ejected Kaustabh Pawar on Day 1.
Their morale boosted after an impressive bowling effort, Haryana started their second innings on a confident note with Sunny Singh and Rahul Dewan adding 85 runs for the second wicket, to their team in a position of strength.
The more flamboyant of the two, Sunny found the fence with considerable ease, and hit Zaheer Khan for three fours in one particular over.
Mumbai’s captain, seeking to make a comeback to the Indian team, was clearly not too pleased with the treatment. First a length delivery was driven through the cover; he then cut a short and wide one on the off through point before placing one to perfection in the gap between extra-cover and mid-off.
Zaheer and his bowlers were guilty of bowling short on a number of occasions.
The visitors heaved a sigh of relief after Kulkarni clean bowled Sunny, after a well-made 63 that came off 78 balls and included 11 boundaries. Zaheer had Abhimanyu Khod caught at gully by Vishal Dabholkar.
From 22 for one at lunch, Haryana were sitting pretty at 132 for three at the tea break.
Having added 40 runs for the fourth wicket with Jayant Yadav, Dewan, six short of fifty, fell to left-arm spinner Dabholkar with the score reading 153 for four. The 27-year-old batsman faced 121 balls and struck four boundaries.
After being hit for a massive six by Rana, Dabholkar came back strongly to win an lbw appeal against the batsman, only to be carted around by Patel towards the end.
Skipper Ajay Jadeja did not trouble the scorers as he was caught by Rahane off Zaheer for nought.
On this track, bowlers were needed to pitch it up, and whenever they did that, the Haryana batsmen were in trouble.
Image: Zaheer Khan