Hardik Pandya returned to competitive cricket with impressive spells with new balls. Siddhesh Lad converted his fifth fifty of the season into a maiden hundred. Still, such was the audacity of Shreyas Iyer’s blitzkrieg that everything else appeared to be a blur on the opening day of Mumbai’s must-win Ranji Trophy Elite Group A game against Baroda.
Despite the demons of a batting collapse returning to haunt Mumbai in the last session, Iyer and Lad’s rampaging 283-run partnership off just 45.1 overs meant the home side finished the day at 439 for 8 at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.
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After being put into bat by Baroda, Mumbai opened with Aditya Tare and Vikrant Auti, its third opening combination of the season. But both the makeshift openers perished to the comeback man, who bowled a refreshing spell with the red cherry.
After a relatively quiet half an hour, Hardik struck in successive overs, first getting one that pitched just short of good length to rise sharply on left-hander Auti. The debutant shouldered arms but the ball rose sharply on him to kiss the glove en route the ’keeper. In the next over, Tare’s attempt to play across the line to a full and straight one resulted in him being plumb in front of the wickets.
At 28 for two, Mumbai was in danger of a third batting collapse at the start of the innings in as many weeks. But Iyer, taking guard less than 24 hours after arriving from India A’s tour to New Zealand, changed the complexion of the game in no time along with captain Lad.
The moment Hardik made way for left-arm seamer Rishi Arothe after an impressive spell that read 6-0-21-2, Iyer welcomed him with a six over covers and followed it up with two spanking drives through the same region.
Iyer didn’t drop the guard, driving the medium-pacers through the line at will. And once the spin was introduced, Iyer opened his shoulders at will, displacing the spin troika into the stands at will.
The first such instance of three sixes in four balls over wide long-on helped him race from 83 to 101, with the milestone taking just 86 balls. And the second spree — three successive sixes off Yusuf — took him past 150 in just 123 balls.
Just when he was racing towards one of the fastest double century in Ranji history, Iyer miscued a heave off Yusuf and Vishnu Solanki held on to the skier by sprinting from long-on to mid-wicket.
Lad, who was lucky to have been dropped on 28 by veteran Yusuf Pathan at second slip after Pandya changed ends for a second spell, then took centrestage along with Shubham Ranjane and the duo appeared to be scoring at will even after Lad completed his hundred with a tap to the on-side off Swapnil Singh after tea. But both gifted their wickets away by offering regulation catches to long-off and covers, respectively, in Bhatt’s successive overs.
The left-arm spinner then got through the gap when debutante Eknath Kerkar attempted a cut to put Mumbai in a spot.
Pandya then bowled all-rounder Shivam Dube, who was hitting the ball clean, with the second new ball on the cusp of stumps to keep Baroda in the game.
Mumbai 439 for 8 (Shreyas Iyer 178, Siddhesh Lad 130, Bhargav Bhatt 4 for 68, Hardik Pandya 3 for 74) vs Baroda.
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