There was a dramatic moment when Siddhesh Lad pulled off an electrifying reflex-action catch at short cover at the stroke of lunch on Tuesday to send back the Rest of India captain Naman Ojha. It turned out to be the biggest breakthrough for the Ranji Trophy winner, Mumbai, as it took a strangledhold of the five-day Irani Cup at the Brabourne Stadium.
Thanks to the good work by its bowlers, notably seamer Abhishek Nayar, off-spinner Jay Bista and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdullah, Mumbai dismissed RoI for 306 and took a first-innings lead of 297, which has increased the possibility of the Ranji champion lifting the Cup on Thursday.
If Lad’s spectacular fielding effort caused excitement in the Mumbai ranks, Karnataka’s Karun Nair — who took strike at the fall of the third wicket at 110 — made sure that his team did not cave in too soon. For four and a half hours, he showed the value of patience and cautious shot selection, as he compiled his fourth half-century (he eventually scored 94) in the tournament. On the previous three occasions for Karnataka, Nair made 92 (2014) and 59 and 80 (2015).
Trying to farm the strike and also get towards his first century, Nair (192 balls, 11x4) slashed at Dhawal Kulkarni, operating with the second new ball, and offered a straightforward catch to Shreyas Iyer at deep point.
Mumbai chips away
RoI recovered to an extent through the sixth-wicket partnership of 59 runs between Nair and Sheldon Jackson before the Saurashtra right-hander jumped out and was bowled neck and crop by a viciously turning off-break. Very soon, Bista scalped Stuart Binny with any another big off-break, but on this occasion his captain and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare played his part, effecting a fine leg-side stumping.
Thereafter, Mumbai countered an unlikely tough customer in Saurashtra left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat for nearly two hours. The second new ball, claimed in the 87th over, eventually did the trick for Mumbai, as Nayar induced a nick that landed safely into the big hands of Suryakumar Yadav at second slip. Nair and Unadkat added 91 runs for the eighth wicket. An ailing Ankit Rajpoot did not bat and RoI’s first innings folded up at the fall of Nair a few minutes before the conclusion of the extended time, allowed to make up for overs bowled short.
In the last five minutes, the home team’s opener Akhil Herwadkar was flummoxed by a delivery from off-spinner Yadav that hastened off the pitch and hit the stumps. The match has perhaps lost the relevance of a contest though, with Mumbai up by 299 runs and nine wickets in hand.
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