Rest of India get the better of Mumbai on first innings lead
Rest of India retained the Irani Cup for the eighth year in succession having got the better of Mumbai on the basis of first innings lead at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Sunday.
Chasing 507 to win the home team had made 160 for four in reply (54 overs), when the match was called off after the third mandatory over, 40 minutes after the tea interval.
Wasim Jaffer was unbeaten on 101 and giving him company was Ankeet Chavan on 12, the two having put on 37 runs for the fifth wicket in what was a draw, rather a lost cause for Mumbai.
It was a 25th title overall for Rest of India (RoI) – twice shared – against the domestic champions. Mumbai, on the other hand, finished second best for the seventh straight time.
The win kept RoI's recent impressive record in the tournament intact, the team assembled from around the country – to lock horns with the Ranji Trophy champions – having not lost since a reverse at the hands of Railways in the 2005-06 season.
In fact RoI has ceded the trophy to the national champions only twice in the past 15 seasons, Railways emerging triumphant on the both the occasions – the 2002-03 season being the other instance.
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com
Mumbai last won the Irani Cup in 1997-98
Mumbai last won the Irani Cup back in the 1997-98 season. A 15-year-old drought might seem a lot for a team that has won the Ranji Trophy on a whopping 40 occasions.
This seemed the perfect opportunity.
The team had come back from a stuttering start – that included just one outright win from eight matches – to claim the Ranji title and were high on confidence.
The fact that they hosted the tie, at the same venue they won the domestic title a few days back (Wankhede), added to their advantage. Moreover, they also got it right with the coin, asking the opposition to bat, a ploy that worked against Saurashtra in the Ranji final.
However, the RoI batsmen, led by centurions Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina, negated that advantage by putting up a formidable total (526) in that first essay.
Once Mumbai conceded a first innings lead, despite Sachin Tendulkar scoring an unbeaten 140, they seemed to have lost interest. The match was all but over on the fourth day as RoI was allowed to consolidate their advantage, with the Mumbai bowlers not pressing for wickets.
Resuming at their overnight total of 296 for four, the visitors added 93 more before declaring their second innings at 389 for nine, setting the home team an improbable target (507).
Ambati Rayudu remained unbeaten on 156 and added a healthy 145 runs for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina (71), the latter being the lone RoI wicket to fall, caught by Ajinkya Rahane off Vishal Dabholkar.
The home team was well-placed at 31 without loss at lunch (after 10 overs), though Aditya Tare (then on eight) was dropped by Rayudu at mid-on in the last over before lunch. But Harbhajan Singh struck in the fourth over after resumption, eventually getting the wicket he had missed out on in the first session, a spectacular catch by Shikhar Dhawan at short leg sending Tare (11) back to the pavilion.
Jaffer proceeded to complete his 81st first class fifty, and put on 53 for the second wicket with Rahane (25) before the latter became the RoI captain's second victim of the innings, Vijay taking the catch at short leg.
Rohit Sharma, out for nought in the first essay, got on the scoreboard in the second before gifting his wicket away again, Abhimanyu Mithun catching the mishit at mid-off and Pragyan Ojha getting his first wicket as a result.
Abhishek Nayar's (2) 43-ball ordeal came to an end when he edged a Raina delivery to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Jaffer though continued with his good form, following up his 80 in the first essay with an unbeaten 100 in the second, his 48th first class hundred.
The 34-year-old, when on 93, became the highest scorer in the Irani Cup (with 1001 runs) besting Gundappa Viswanath's longstanding record.
However, his effort wasn't enough to conceal what was an otherwise vapid effort by a team seeking to end a 15-year drought.
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com