Ranji final — Day 2: Gujarat ahead of Mumbai by 63 runs

The fourth wicket stand of 110 runs between skipper Parthiv Patel and Manprit Juneja paves the way for Gujarat’s handy first innings lead against Mumbai.

Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel despatches a delivery to the fence. He came down heavily on anything bowled short.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Gujarat made the most of the reprieves it had — Mumbai fast bowler Shardul Thakur overstepping while snaring Parthiv Patel behind and Shreyas Iyer flooring an easy catch of Manprit Juneja — to take a valuable first innings lead on an eventful second day of the Ranji Trophy final at the Holkar Stadium on Wednesday.

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After sending back Samit Gohil and Prinyank Panchal — both triple-century makers this season — cheaply by the 20th over, Mumbai celebrated the ‘fall’ of skipper Parthiv Patel with Gujarat’s score reading 61 for two. Patel followed a Thakur delivery outside the off-stump and nicked to wicketkeeper Aditya Tare. However, the mandatory referral to the third umpire showed that the bowler had overstepped, and Patel returned to the crease. Thereafter, Iyer, who did not appear to be in the game, dropped a waist-high catch of Manprit Juneja, who flicked to mid-wicket, with Gujarat’s score on 129 for three.

 

Capitalising on these let-offs, the fourth wicket pair of Patel and Juneja batted for nearly two hours with plenty of freedom to take Gujarat’s score to 226 — two runs shy of Mumbai’s first innings total. Patel came down heavily on anything short, while Juneja used his feet to drive and cut. Their partnership was worth 110 runs and came off 160 balls.

When play ended on the second day, Mumbai had bowled for nearly six hours and 15 minutes and Gujarat finished 63 runs ahead in the first innings with four wickets in hand. With three days to go, during which 270 overs would have to be bowled, there is a possibility of the final taking more twists and turns. But for that to happen, Mumbai, in the first place, must post a challenging fourth innings target.

At the receiving end for virtually two-and-a-half sessions, Mumbai — which competed remarkably well through its lion-hearted seamers, Thakur, Abhishek Nayar and Balwinder Singh Sandhu — hit back after the fall of Patel’s wicket in the post-tea session.

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Patel (90; 13x4), who survived a close call when he was on 20, fell 10 runs short of what would have been a very deserving century. Juneja (77; 11x4) also played a loose shot and Thakur took the resultant catch off his own bowling. There was a referral to check if it was a no-ball, but this time the third umpire, K. Srinath, ruled in favour of the bowler. Sandhu then made left-hander Rujul Bhatt push hard and Shaw, at point, held the resultant catch.

Gujarat, who declined from 226 for three to 264 for six, has probably allowed Mumbai the leeway to get back into the match.

Gujarat was lucky that Tare dropped a regulation catch of Chirag Gandhi when the batsman was on seven. But after being forced on the backfoot by the stellar partnership between Parthiv and Juneja, Mumbai was on top in the third session through the splendid bowling efforts of its seamers on a wicket that was more suitable for batting.

Mumbai felt it was done in by umpire Anil Chaudhary, who did not give Bhargav Merai out after he had edged Nayar to the wicketkeeper. However, the same Mumbai pair came together in dismissing Merai, who made a stroke-filled 45.

The post-tea session saw Mumbai pick up three wickets as Gujarat added 88 runs. Gujarat would hope to stretch the lead substantially, while Mumbai, which claimed the second new ball in the 89th over, would hope to dismiss its opponent quickly. The events on Thursday would offer the first indication of which way the final would move.