Ranji Final — Day 3: Mumbai fights back

Mumbai would look to set a target close to 300 and give its bowlers sufficient time to dismiss Gujarat in the fourth innings when the spinners Vishal Dabholkar and Gohil come into play.

Gujarat's Chintan Gaja accounted for all the three Mumbai wickets to fall on Day Three.   -  K. Murali Kumar

For the first time in three days of the Ranji Trophy final at the Holkar Stadium, Gujarat employed negative tactics with its seamers sending down deliveries close to the return crease. This sort of dull activity only kept the bowler and the wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel in the picture for many overs after the post-lunch session. Mumbai’s third-wicket pair — Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav — though did not fall to the trap of being forced to make an error-prone shot. Both the players left the ball and saw it travel into the big gloves of the Gujarat skipper who was shepherding his forces from behind the stumps. Their watchful effort for 21 minutes short of four hours took Mumbai to 208 for three wickets in 67 overs at stumps, with Iyer falling a third victim to medium-pacer Chintan Gaja.

>The scorecard

Trailing by 100 runs, Mumbai was given a blazing start by the pocket-dynamite Prithvi Shah and left-hander Akhil Herwadkar and the lead was whittled down quickly with 51 scored off the first 44 balls. Shaw, who seemed to be in a tearing hurry to help his side wipe out the deficit, attacked anything pitched outside the off-stump and found the gaps for the ball to race to the fence. It was Shaw’s uninhibited strokeplay that compelled Parthiv to pack the off-side field with seven fielders, with almost three in catching positions in the arc between cover and point.

Sooner than later, the well-meaning people in Mumbai will counsel Shaw to be a little more careful in shot selection. He is only 17 and has already shown promise to succeed in the tough world of India’s domestic tournament and also make it to the national team in a few years. He’s gifted, but he has to learn to respect the opponent and the game. He virtually toyed (44, 35b, 8x4s) with the Gujarat attack before falling to a dreadful shot. He followed Herwadkar, who himself guided a short ball into the safe hands of Samit Gohel in the slip cordon.

The dot balls — 96 faced by Iyer and 148 faced by Yadav — were ample reflection of the extent to which Gujarat sustained its run-denying strategy. With virtually five hours of play on the third day and six each on the fourth and fifth days, Gujarat’s plan was more likely to fail on a featherbed of a wicket and Iyer and Yadav were focused enough to see through the important phase of the day for Mumbai.

The Gujarat seamers — R. P. Singh, Rush Kalaria and Chintan Gaja — largely stood up to the task demanded by their skipper; they were a tired lot too, sending down 46 overs. Gaja picked up three wickets, but it was the batsmen’s folly than any great deal of his manipulation that enabled him to see the back of the three batsmen. R. P. Singh restricted the scoring and Kalaria, obeying his captain’s whims, was not really bowling with the aim of getting the batsmen out.

Gujarat’s left-arm spinner Hardik Patel suffered a lot, conceding 66 runs in 14 overs. Iyer hit him for two sixes. Mumbai would have liked to end the day with Iyer and Yadav in the middle, but a poor shot by Iyer, after he understood the situation of the match and occupied the crease for four hours, resulted in his dismissal 40 minutes before stumps. Iyer played 137 balls, struck nine 4s and two sixes, while Yadav has been in the middle for four hours and 18 minutes.

After the conclusion of the day’s play, Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit ordered nets for Siddhesh Lad and Vijay Gohil. Mumbai would look to set a target close to 300 and give its bowlers sufficient time to dismiss Gujarat in the fourth innings when the spinners Vishal Dabholkar and Gohil come into play.

Mumbai began its second innings after it bowled out Gujarat 64 minutes into the day’s play, with Shardul Thakur and Balwinder Singh Sandhu taking two wickets apiece with the second new ball.