Satisfied with leaving deliveries endlessly and playing defensive strokes, Vaibhav Rawal and Himmat Singh frustrated Mumbai for much of day two at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. Thanks to such an approach, they were able to give their team the unlikely upper hand in the Ranji Trophy contest.
The two middle-order batters stuck together for 343 deliveries. There were phases of acceleration, but they were few and far between.
Summing up their strategy when in the middle, captain Himmat, who scored an excellent 85 (167b) said: “Medium pacers get less help on the second day than on the first. Once the ball got old, we just thought we have to apply ourselves (sic). The ball was moving around, and they got wickets off good deliveries – the four wickets that fell in the morning were off good deliveries. So we decided to play tight and [occupy the crease]. Once the partnership has blossomed, you should look to kill the game and not allow the opponent a window of opportunity by playing a loose shot. This is what we were discussing in the middle.”
The two batters played the spinners well. Himmat even smashed Shams Mulani, the left-arm spinner, for a six to reach his half-century before following it up with another aggressive stroke, this time for four runs. There were sweeps and reverse-sweeps on display, too, but for the most part, both batters left the deliveries, defended, or nudged them around for the easy singles on offer.
Himmat felt a rough patch had been created for bowlers to exploit from one end of the ground.
“When batting from the Willingdon Pavilion end, we had some rough areas on the pitch to deal with. The rough patch was in play when the left-arm spinner was bowling to the left-hander. I was just telling [Rawal] to play with the turn, and not against the turn,” Himmat said.
Rawal felt that the pitch had deteriorated enough for spinners to dictate the terms. The southpaw played defensively, too, but seemed to relish playing aggressive strokes off short deliveries. He needed to do it, he said, as the ball sometimes didn’t bounce too high to be left alone safely.
“I play positively. The pitch was two-paced. On black soil, the ball doesn’t bounce as much, while on red soil, in the west of India, the ball bounces and you can leave them alone. Here, besides just leaving the balls, you also need to be prepared to take the short balls on. When you hit, the bowler is also under pressure and may be compelled to change his lengths. If the deliveries are in my range, I go for the pull shots,” he said.
Rawal was elated to have scored his century, the third of his First Class career.
“I went through a lot of emotions. I hadn’t played for a long time, and made a comeback this year. I have always wanted my contributions to help my team. I had a lot of emotions, but I will feel even better if we win this match,” he said.