Sitting atop a pile of runs, Sarfaraz Khan was a shattered man after failing to break into the Indian team for the upcoming Test series against Australia.
However, not one to give up, the Mumbai run-machine sent the National selectors yet another reminder on Tuesday, notching his third century in the ongoing edition of Ranji Trophy to extend his astonishing run in the Indian domestic circuit.
That Mumbai could post 293 before being bowled out on the first day of their Group B match against traditional rivals Delhi, was largely due to the 25-year-old's 125 off 155 balls at the Ferozshah Kotla ground.
The innings was a timely one, coming barely days after his snub for the high-profile four-match series against a formidable Australian team. The prolific batter not being picked for the Indian team has been a subject of an intense debate for the past two days.
When his team needed him the most, he responded to the call and scored one of his most significant tons with a nudge for a single.
Sarfaraz then took off his helmet, did the signature thigh-five celebration, and gestured towards his teammates on the boundary line.
In return, his teammates rose to pay a standing ovation, while chief coach Amol Muzumdar doffed his hat at the batter.
It was no surprise that his younger brother, Musheer Khan, was the most ecstatic in the Mumbai camp.
It was not an easy outing as Sarfaraz came in to bat with his team in a spot of bother at 62 for 3, replacing his 17-year-old brother. He then saw skipper Ajinkya Rahane make his way back to the dressing room after being dismissed by medium pacer Pranshu Vijayran as Mumbai were reduced to 66 for 4.
Wicketkeeper Prasad Pawar (25) got out after getting a start, paving the way for a sixth-wicket stand of 144 runs between Sarfaraz and Shams Mulani (39).
In-form opener Prithvi Shaw was Mumbai’s second highest scorer, with a characteristic 35-ball 40.
Vijayran (4 for 66) was the most successful bowler on the day for Delhi, while there were two wickets apiece for Harshit Rana and Yogesh Sharma.
Left-arm spinner Yogesh was unfortunate not to have got the key wicket of Sarfaraz as ‘keeper Anuj Rawat missed a stumping off his bowling much before the batter reached his hundred.
In the last two Ranji Trophy seasons, Sarfaraz has amassed 1,910 runs in just 12 games, averaging 136.42. He scored seven centuries in 18 innings, and also 11 fifties.
Since 2019, the Mumbai batter has scored 2,289 runs in 22 innings, at an average of 134.64, with nine hundreds, five fifties, two double hundreds and a triple ton.
At New Delhi: Mumbai 293 all out in 79.2 overs (Sarfaraz Khan 125, Prithvi Shaw 40; Pranshu Vijayran 4/66) vs Delhi.
At Rajkot: Andhra 256/5 in 90 overs (Ricky Bhui 80; Dharmendrasinh Jadeja 3/80) vs Saurashtra.
At Chennai: Tamil Nadu 386/4 in 90 overs (Narayan Jagadeesan 125, Pradosh Ranjan Paul 99 batting, Baba Indrajith 77, Vijay Shankar 53 batting) vs Assam.
At Pune: Maharashtra 353/5 in 85 overs (Naushad Shaikh 145; Kedar Jadhav 71, Ashay Palkar 61 batting; Kartikeya Kak 3/76) vs Hyderabad.
Anustup's unbeaten ton gives Bengal solid start
Rohtak: Veteran Bengal batter Anustup Majumdar scored an unbeaten 137 -- his 12th first-class century -- as the visitors made a strong start in their Ranji Trophy Group A match against Haryana.
With Bengal in prime position to make it to the Ranji quarter-finals -- they lead the group with 25 points -- the 38-year-old Majumdar gave them a solid start, guiding them to 335 for 6 on Day 1 of the match at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Lahli.
Abhimanyu Easwaran (57) and wicketkeeper Abhishek Porel (49) were the other key contributors for Bengal, who scored at a healthy rate of 3.72 runs per over.
Harshal Patel was the most successful Haryana bowler, grabbing three wickets for 60 runs in his 18 overs, even as the hosts utilised seven bowlers to restrict Bengal without much success.
Anustup's knock came off just 193 balls, at a strike rate of nearly 71, as he picked the occasional loose deliveries to dispatch them to the boundary ropes.
The veteran of 75 first-class games has so far scored 14 boundaries and if he continues in the same vein on Wednesday, he could surpass a personal milestone -- his highest first-class score of 159.
Earlier, it wasn't a dream start for Bengal -- they were 72 for 2 -- but once Easwaran got going and the team passed the century mark, it was smooth sailing with Anustup going after the bowlers.
At stumps, Anustup and Pradipta Pramanik (23) were at the crease.
Haryana, on the other hand, will look to break the partnership quickly on Wednesday and ensure the visitors are bundled out for a sub-400 total.
The season hasn't gone the home team's way, with the team, led by India white-ball cricketer Harshal Patel, having just one win to show for so far. Haryana are currently placed fifth with 12 points.
At Rohtak: Bengal 335 for 6 in 90 overs (Abhimanyu Easwaran 57, Anustup Majumdar batting 137; Abishek Porel 49; Harshal Patel 3/60) vs Haryana.
At Dehradun: Baroda 86 in 35.3 overs (Deepak Dhapola 2/28, Agrim Tiwari 5/40, Abhay Negi 2/14) vs Uttarakhand 74 for 4 in 32 overs (Aditya Tare batting 26; Babashafi Pathan 2/11).
At Nadaun: Himachal Pradesh 285 for 6 in 90 overs (Ankit Kalsi batting 116, Nikhil Gangta 41, Rishi Dhawan 40, Mayank Dagar bating 53) vs Nagaland.
At Meerut: Odisha 222 for 5 in 82 overs (Shantanu Mishra batting 107, Rajesh Dhuper 62, Abhishek Raut batting 43) vs Uttar Pradesh.
Tejas Patel, Gaja shine as Gujarat grab sizeable lead
Nagpur: Gujarat took control of their Ranji Trophy Group D game against Vidarbha by securing a 114-run lead at stumps on Day 1.
Having bowled out Vidarbha for 74, Gujarat replied with 188 for 5 at close of play after medium-pacers Tejas Patel (5 for 19) and Chintan Gaja (5 for 31) combined brilliantly to bundle out the host team.
Electing to bat after skipper Akshay Wadkar won the toss, Vidarbha lost the experienced Faiz Fazal (0) in the fourth over, when Patel trapped the left-handed batter LBW.
The home side batters appeared all at sea in the face of some incisive bowling by Patel and Gaja. Barring opener Sanjay Ramaswamy (33, 61 balls, 5 fours), none of the others showed fight. Wickets kept falling in a heap as Patel and Gaja wreaked havoc.
Sanjay Ramaswamy held one end up. Five batters were dismissed for zero as Gujarat dominated the first session. The host slipped to 25 for 5 before Ramaswamy and Jitesh Sharma (10) stemmed the rot for a while, weathering the Patel-Gaja duo for 12 overs.
Once Ramaswamy was trapped LBW by Gaja with the score at 61, the other four wickets fell for the addition of just 13 runs.
Like their opponents, Gujarat too didn't start well with opener Priyesh Patel being scalped by Aditya Sarwate (3/50).
Opening batter Aarya Desai (88) and Bhargav Merai (40) got together for a solid 117-run stand for the second wicket to set Gujarat on course for a good score.
Sarwate struck to remove Merai and Desai before Vidarbha got two more wickets. However, Gujarat with contributions from skipper Het Patel (14 batting) and the others made sure that the lead kept getting bigger.
At Mohali, Punjab rode on tons from Anmolpreet Singh (124) and Nehal Wadhera (123 batting) to score 302 for five at stumps against defending champions Madhya Pradesh on the opening day.
At Nagpur: Vidarbha 74 all out in 30.3 overs (S R Ramaswamy 33, Tejas Patel 5/19, Chintan Gaja 5/31) vs Gujarat 188 for 5 in 54 overs (Aarya Desai 88, B H Merai 40, AA Sarvate 3/50).
At Mohali: Punjab 302 for 5 in 90 overs (Anmolpreet Singh 124 (207 balls, 12x4), Nehal Wadhera 123 batting (243 balls, 9x4, 1x6) vs Madhya Pradesh.
At Jammu: Jammu & Kashmir 52 for no loss in 24 overs (Abhinav Puri 29 batting) vs Tripura.
At Chandigarh: Railways 327 for 8 in 88 overs (Vivek Singh 108 (215 balls, 12x4, 1x6), Upendra Yadav 113 (138 balls, 12x4, 1x6), Karn Sharma 30, Sandeep Sharma 5/87) vs Chandigarh.
Sachin Baby's ton helps Kerala recover vs Karnataka
Thiruvananthapuram: Skipper Sachin Baby led from the front with a superb 116 as Kerala recovered from 6 for 3 to end Day 1 of their Ranji Trophy Group C match against Karnataka at 224 for 6.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, Kerala found themselves in trouble after losing opening batter Rahul P for a duck.
Rohan Prem (0) and opener Rohan S Kunnummal (5) were dismissed by V Vyshak and Koushik respectively as the home side slipped to 6 for 3.
Baby fought back for Kerala in the company of Vathsal Govind (46, 116 balls, 6 fours) as the duo added 120 runs in a little over 40 overs.
The left-handed Baby, however, did not miss out on scoring opportunities that came his way. He hit 12 fours to keep Kerala in the hunt as he registered his third of the current Ranji season.
Once the Baby-Vathsal partnership was ended by medium-pacer Koushik (4/36), Karnataka removed Salman Nizar (0) for the addition of two more runs. Akshay Chandran (17) batted in a sedate manner to help the captain add 46 runs for the sixth wicket before he fell to leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (1/25).
All-rounder Jalaj Saxena, a hugely experienced campaigner, walked in at the fall of Chandran's wicket and made sure that the team did not suffer any further setbacks.
He was 31 not out at stumps as Kerala moved to 224 for 6 in 90 overs at close of play after adding 50 runs with Baby.
At Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala 224 for 6 in 90 overs (Sachin Baby 116 batting, Jalaj Saxena 31 batting, Vathsal Govind 46, V Koushik 4/36) vs Karnataka.
At Puducherry: Pondicherry 217 for 7 in 87.2 overs (K B Arun Karthick 68, Paras K Dogra 68, Aravind K 31, Ashish Kumar 3/34) vs Jharkhand.
At New Delhi: Services 175 all out in 59.2 overs (Pulkit Nagar 52, L S Kumar 32, Vijesh Prabhudesai 3/39) vs Goa 36 for 1 in 18 overs.
At Jodhpur: Rajasthan 330 for 8 in 85 overs (Samarpit Joshi 123 (181 balls, 11x4, 2x6), Mahipal Lomror 47, MJ Suthar 45 batting, SS Dhiwan 41, Karan Lamba 30, Vasudev Bareth 3/61) vs Chhattisgarh.