Ranji final: Saurashtra fights back after Iyer's century

Shreyas Iyer’s vividness with the willow first gave Mumbai the upper hand but the all-pace Saurashtra attack, led by Jaydev Unadkat, clawed its way back later in the day by dismantling the Mumbai middle order.

Shreyas Iyer celebrates after scoring his sixth first-class century.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Shreyas Iyer (right) and Surya Kumar Yadav steadied Mumbai with a partnership of 152 for the third wicket.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Jaydev Unadkat took two top-order wickets in a testing first spell.   -  Prashant Nakwe

A tale of two contrasting halves left the Ranji Trophy final between giants Mumbai and dark horse Saurashtra poised for a close finish after the second day’s play. Shreyas Iyer’s vividness with the willow first gave Mumbai the upper hand but the all-pace Saurashtra attack, led by Jaydev Unadkat, clawed its way back later in the day by dismantling the Mumbai middle order.

>Scorecard

At the end of Thursday’s play at the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s stadium at Gahunje, Mumbai was placed at 262 for eight in the first innings, with a slender advantage of 27 runs in reply to Saurashtra’s total of 235.

>Shreyas Iyer: 'It's a good feeling to get a century in a pressure game like the final.'

Had it not been for Iyer’s brilliance, backed by Suryakumar Yadav’s second fiddle during their 152-run association for the third wicket, Mumbai could well have been staring down the barrel. On the other hand, despite the late surge by its pacemen, Saurashtra would be ruing a missed opportunity – Arpit Vasavada dropping Iyer off Deepak Punia lower to his left when the batsman was on 37 – early on during the batsman’s sensational innings on a track that remained pace-friendly.





Despite the life, Iyer needs to be given all the credit for registering his fourth century of the season. The moment he flicked the first ball he faced – third of the innings after Unadkat had induced an edge off in-form opener Akhil Herwadkar into slips – through the midwicket region, he served a warning that he was in a mood to play a trademark, aggressive innings.

And he didn’t disappoint a handful of spectators for more than three and a half hours. A spree of boundaries early on in the innings, unleashing straight drives, cover drives and punches through off side, meant Saurashtra couldn’t continue the pressure created with Unadkat’s impressive eight-over opening spell, which also saw Bhavin Thakkar, the other opener, being castled with one that held its line after pitching in the channel.

He displayed his gutsy character to the fore, despatching an outswinger from Punia into the sight screen two balls after the dropped chance.

However, Iyer gifted his wicket away four minutes before the end of the extended second session with a tired drive off Chirag Jani that rested into captain Jaydev Shah’s hands at deepish mid-off.

Once the dazzler had been dismissed, Saurashtra bowlers suddenly seemed to have found their mojo. It resulted in Mumbai losing five wickets for the addition of 78 runs in the last session, with Hardik Rathod emerging as the most successful bowler.

Though Unadkat didn’t add to his wicket tally, he continued to trouble every batsman he bowled. Not to forget the cameo he played with the bat early in the morning that helped Saurashtra inch closer to the 250-run mark, something its coach Sitanshu Kotak had voiced as a par first innings score on a seamer-friendly track.