Thanks to some disciplined bowling and helpful conditions, unheralded Delhi had the surprising upper hand at lunch on day one of the Ranji Trophy contest against Mumbai at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. It took a patient rearguard effort from the in-form Sarfaraz Khan (125, 155b, 16x4, 4x6) and Shams Mulani (39, 103b, 6x4) to blunt the bowling attack and see their team through to a healthy total of 293 at stumps.
Coming out to bat at the fall of the third wicket – with just 62 on the board – the diminutive Sarfaraz took his time to settle in when the fast bowlers had their tails up. Wickets continued to fall around him before he could get a reliable partner who could hold up an end. Captain Ajinkya Rahane fell cheaply, edging to slips trying to get his bat out of the way, and Prasad Pawar departed after a brief resistance, also edging to slips to seamer Pranshu Vijayran.
Mulani, however, was up to the task, content to keep leaving deliveries outside the off-stump even as Sarfaraz opened up at the other end. The post-lunch session was especially productive: 117 runs were added for the loss of a wicket, with Sarfaraz and Mulani having added 98 runs. They went on to add 46 more runs before Mulani fell against the run of play to a benign delivery in the evening. Wickets then fell consistently as Mumbai was bowled out for 293.
Sarfaraz’s strength was his patience combined with the ability to seize on loose deliveries. The pitch was such that the ball was swinging even in mid-afternoon, with even the set Sarfaraz on occasion being beaten. But amid his defensive prods, nudges, and leaves, he produced some glorious strokes. His drives were sumptuous, especially the straight drive off Divij Mehra in the 49th over. And there were some audacious hits: a lovely upper cut in the last over before tea off Harshit Mehta reminded one of Sachin Tendulkar in his prime; so, too, did his lofted drive for six to bring up the 250 for Mumbai in the 69th over. He was elated after reaching his century, making a trademark gesture to the dugout to huge cheers from his teammates and the small crowd of about 150 that had assembled.
Earlier, Vijayran rocked the formidable Mumbai top-order an hour into the morning session, the batters failing to negotiate good swing and seam bowling. It was windy, too, adding to the difficulties. After a rapid start – the 50 was up within 12 overs – four wickets were lost for 13 runs, with Vijayran accounting for three of those.
Prithvi Shaw’s wicket was the turning point. The opener attacked from the get go, driving through cover and extra cover, flicking to the on-side, and guiding the ball through third man for his boundaries. He looked in supreme touch after having scored 379 in the previous game, but his innings ended prematurely as he fell to negotiate a sharp inducker. The ball thudded into his pads, and it seemed the ball would have gone over the stumps, but the umpire thought differently.
Brief scores: Mumbai 293 (Sarfaraz 125, Shaw 40, Vijayran 4 for 66) vs Delhi