Mumbai v M. P. Ranji: Shreyas in full flow

The intrepid right-hander’s rollicking 90 (104b, 13x4, 1x6) was the highlight of day one as Mumbai, inserted by Madhya Pradesh on a green pitch, progressed to 327 for seven in the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the DRIEMS ground on Saturday.

Shreyas Iyer... poise and balance.   -  V. Ganesan

Shreyas Iyer is in what cricketers call ‘the zone,’ reeling off boundaries with timing, grace and freedom irrespective of the conditions or the situation. Once again, he was the enforcer for Mumbai at No. 3.

The intrepid right-hander’s rollicking 90 (104b, 13x4, 1x6) was the highlight of day one as Mumbai, inserted by Madhya Pradesh on a green pitch, progressed to 327 for seven in the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the DRIEMS ground on Saturday.

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There was some seam movement for pacemen, but Madhya Pradesh might have rued the absence of a genuine swing bowler, who could have exploited the strong breeze that blew across the ground all afternoon.

Second new ball produces results

Given the momentum by Shreyas’ onslaught, Mumbai, with half-centuries from its strokeful skipper Aditya Tare (68, 117b, 10x4) and the organised Siddhesh Lad (57 batting, 115b, 11x4) and a forceful 48-ball 43 from the left-handed Abhishek Nayar consolidated before Madhya Pradesh struck back with the second new ball.

The persistent Ishwar Pandey foxed Nayar with change of pace and the deceptively sharp Chandrakant Sakure had Iqbal Abdullah taken at slip for his fourth scalp.

A capable bat

Earlier, Shreyas’ poise and balance on a surface where the ball jagged around underlined his ability. His back-lift may be high, but the willow comes down straight and his footwork is decisive.

Whether striking the ball off the back-foot on either side or getting to the front foot for those scorching cover drives, Shreyas did so with the spontaneity of a natural. Tall, lean, loose-limbed and elegant, he on-drove with a still head and a high left elbow, then got down on one knee to square-drive Sakure. Shreyas gets into position early -- picking the length is the key -- and consequently has more time at his disposal to play the ball.

The 21-year-old was on course for a hundred when a Sakure leg-cutter found the edge. Mumbai was on a rather wobbly 170 for four at this stage, but Madhya Pradesh failed to create pressure from both ends allowing partnerships to develop.

Puzzling bowling choice

It was puzzling why Harpreet Singh’s innocuous medium pace was retained for long periods. Jalaj Saxena should have sent down more than just one over for the day; he could have been introduced at least when Nayar was at the crease for the angles an off-spinner can create against a left-hander.

In the morning, Sakure shifted his line capably to nail the in-form, left-handed opener Akhil Herwadkar. Bhavin Thakkar (30), an opener belonging to the old school, and Shreyas added 88 for the second wicket before the former fell to an ill-advised pull off Sakure.

And Ishwar Pandey, with telling line and bounce, had Suryakumar Yadav taken in the slip cordon for nought on the stroke of lunch.

The heat was on Mumbai, but Madhya Pradesh could not snap up the half chances in the slip cordon that came its way.