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Mumbai tighten grip on Irani Trophy

Ashish Magotra in Chennai | September 20, 2003 13:58 IST
Last Updated: September 20, 2003 23:46 IST

Someone needs to play a blinder of an innings if the Rest of India are to even get a whiff of victory in the Irani Trophy tie against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai, a draw being out of question with two days left in the match.

Chasing 340 for victory, the Rest were reduced to 55 for 2 at the close on Day 3.

Earlier, the Rest had fought back brilliantly to claim four wickets in the morning session and reduce Mumbai to 109 for 4 at lunch, a lead of 204 runs, with Mumbai skipper Sachin Tendulkar (45 not out) looking in good nick again.

Tendulkar was granted a reprieve early in his innings by V V S Laxman, who dropped a skier off Harbhajan Singh.

The master blaster was looking very edgy at the start of his innings. He began in aggressive fashion, probably in an effort to dispel the doubts in the dressing room about the pitch and the bowling. But soon he proceeded to calm down and play some breathtaking shots against Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu speedster Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled a fiery spell, claiming the wickets of Wasim Jaffer and Robin Morris, who was promoted to number three.

Opener Jaffer was undone by a ball that kept low and was clean bowled (11 for 1). Then Morris (4) shouldered arms to a ball that came in and was declared leg-before. Mumbai were reduced to 15 for 2.

The other opener Vinayak Mane (34) then added 66 runs with his captain Tendulkar. At this stage it looked as if Mumbai had recovered. But the pitch was starting to play its own tricks. The uneven bounce ensured that it was never easy to bat on and the batsmen had to adopt a cautious approach for the most part.

Mane, who had looked very solid throughout his innings, was out trying to play across the line to Kumble. He only succeeded in edging the ball to Virender Sehwag at gully (81 for 3).

Vinod Kambli came and went in a jiffy. He repeated Mane's mistake, trying to smash Kumble through the offside, but only managing to scoop it up to Balaji at point (81 for 4).

Nishith Shetty, batting at No 6, looked assured, a boundary off Harbhajan Singh showing that he was not fazed by the opposition. Lunch was greeted with a flurry of fours by both Shetty and Tendulkar, their intention to get some quick runs very clear.

The post-lunch session saw some exciting action. First, the Rest of India struck quickly to remove Tendulkar (50) and Shetty (17). Then the much-feared Mumbai lower order kicked in and proceeded to take the game away from the opposition.

Sairaj Bahutule (36), Ramesh Powar (57) and Ajit Agarkar (22) all played well to guide Mumbai to 244.

This is the biggest difference between Mumbai and the Rest: teamwork. While the Rest have failed to gel as a unit, every Mumbai player seems to know exactly what is expected of him.

Some credit for this must also go to Tendulkar, who has handled his boys well.

Ramesh PowarPowar and Bahutule had a brilliant partnership, which included big hits to the fence as well as sharp singles, as they helped their side stage a recovery after being reduced to 115 for the loss of six wickets. On a pitch that is now starting to become quite unpredictable, every run they added was vital.

The Rest of India were not very impressive in the field and it boiled down to fortune favouring the brave. Mumbai scored 127 runs in the post-lunch session to virtually seal their triumph.

The tea break, however, turned the tide the Rest of India's way again in a match that has seen many ups and downs, giving the spectators their money's worth. Sanjay Bangar, who was introduced into the attack for the first time in the second innings in place of Kumble, dismissed Bahutule. The change of pace worked and Bahutule was heading back to the pavilion after failing to clear mid-on.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was unlucky not to claim a five-wicket haul, but he improved on his performance from the first day. He began flighting the ball a bit and the results showed. He was easily the best of the Rest's bowlers.

Chasing 340 in the last innings is never easy and on a deteriorating Chennai pitch, it might just prove to be beyond the Rest. The first wicket to fall was that of Bangar. The opener was caught right in front by a ball that almost kissed the dust on the track.

The inconsistencies were showing already. The Rest were reduced to 1-1.

Sehwag will never change the way he plays his cricket. But maybe he needs to exercise some restraint when playing the longer version of the game. His shot selection also needs some improvement. The mercurial opener threw his wicket away with just four overs to go in the day's play, shocking if you consider the amount of international cricket he has played. He looked to be in complete control till he hit an innocuous delivery from Robin Morris straight to Powar in the covers.

Rahul Dravid and nightwatchman Balaji played out the remaining overs, but the scene is grim for the Rest of India team.

Scoreboard on the third day:

Mumbai (first innings):            297
Rest of India (first innings):     202
Mumbai (second innings):
V Mane c Sehwag b Kumble            36
W Jaffer b Balaji                    1
R Morris lbw b Balaji                4
S Tendulkar c Balaji b Z Khan       50
V Kambli c Balaji b Kumble           0
N Shetty c Y Singh b H Singh        17
S Bahutule c Ganguly b Bangar       36
R Powar c Dravid b H Singh          57
A Agarkar c Laxman b H Singh        22
V Samant c Balaji b H Singh          2
A Salvi not out                      0
Extras: (b-10, lb-7 nb-2)           19
Total: (all out in 74 overs)       244

Fall of wickets: 1/11, 2/15, 3/81, 4/81, 5/109, 6/115, 7/199, 8/242, 9/244
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 16-2-44-1; L Balaji 8-3-23-2; Harbhajan Singh; 25-5-79-4; Anil Kumble 22-3-66-2; S Bangar 3-0-15-1

Rest of India (second innings):
S Bangar lbw Agarkar                 1
V Sehwag c Powar b Morris           36
R Dravid batting                    16
L Balaji batting                     0
Extras: (b-1, w-1)                   2
Total: (for 2 wkts in 18 overs)     55

Fall of wickets: 1/1, 2/55
Bowling: A Salvi 6-1-23-0; A Agarkar 5-2-18-1; R Morris 2-0-9-1; Ramesh Powar 3-2-4-0; S Tendulkar 2-2-0-0

Day 2 Report | Day 1 Report

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