Ranji Final: Mumbai dominates Day One

An 84-run association between Arpit Vasavada and debutant Prerak Mankad for the eighth wicket ensure Saurashtra ended Day One of the Ranji final at 192 for eight.

Arpit Vasavada (left) and Prerak Mankad of Saurashtra during day one play of the Ranji Final crikcet match at Maharashtra Cricket Assocoations International cricket stadium at Gahunje, Pune.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Dhaval Kulkarni of Mumbai in action during the final. He was the most impressive bowler for his team.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Arpit Vasavada of Saurashtra reacts to his dismissal on the last ball of the first days play.   -  Prashant Nakwe

For the first half of the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final at the Maharshtra Cricket Association’s stadium at Gahunje, it looked like Mumbai and Saurashtra were re-playing the final from 2012-13. The core players of both the teams were the same from their previous encounter in the domestic cup final.

Then came a resolute partnership between bespectacled Arpit Vasavada and debutant Prerak Mankad that not only erased any comparisons with the 2012-13 final but more importantly kept Saurashtra in the game that was mostly dominated by a determined Mumbai side. Thanks to the 84-run association between the duo for the eighth wicket, Saurashtra ended Day One of the Ranji final at 192 for eight.

Had Vasavada’s gutsy innings not been over with an edge off Dhawal Kulkarni, the star of the day for Mumbai in its quest to the 41st Ranji title, of what turned out to be the last ball of the day, Saurashtra would have felt much more comfortable on the second day morning. But Kulkarni’s impressive work with both the new balls has given Mumbai an early advantage.

Despite being a green track, the wicket didn’t have any demons on it. But the Saurashtra top order crumbled, mostly faltering in shot selection. Barring the big scalp of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was set up nicely by Kulkarni, and captain Jaydev Shah, all the other top-six Saurashtra batsmen gifted their wickets away.

The new-ball bowlers Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur justified their captain’s obvious decision to bowl first, reducing their opponents to 42 for four in the first 90 minutes. Avi Barot, just as he was getting his eye in, flicked one straight to Shreyas Iyer at square-leg at the half-hour mark. Three balls afterwards, Barot’s opening partner Sagar Jogiyani fiddled with one from Thakur that pitched in the perfect channel, only to edge it to wicketkeeper Aditya Tare.

Pujara, the mainstay of Saurashtra’s batting, took his time to assess the conditions. He opened his account off the 10th delivery he faced with a straight drive off an incoming ball from Kulkarni. Three balls later, Kulkarni followed up all the incoming deliveries with one that slightly moved away and Pujara’s attempted on-drive resulted in an edge to Suryakumar Yadav at second slip.

>READ: Kulkarni comes good in a Ranji final, again!

That set the tone for the rest of the day and even the support pace bowlers, Balwinder Singh Sandhu and Abhishek Nayar, persisted with consistent lines and lengths to avoid any freebies. It resulted in wickets continuing to tumble. When Deepak Punia, the second of the three all-rounders offered another comfortable catch to Yadav, midway through the second session, Arpit Vasavada was in danger of running out of partners.

However, the debutant Mankad justified his inclusion over left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja by playing a confident knock. No doubt the wicket had eased out by then but he was cautious with his shot selection and ensured the scoreboard kept flowing. Vasavada also started scoring but had to depart on the last ball of the day.

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