Ranji Trophy: Karn Sharma strikes late in the day for Rlys

Had Karn Sharma not spoilt Mumbai’s party with an accurate display of leg-break bowling in a prolonged spell of 19-4-34-3, Mumbai would have been in a much better position than ending the day at 244 for five.

Akhil Herwadkar missed his century by just four runs.   -  File Photo: R. Ragu

Akhil Herwadkar continued his silken touch with the willow and Shreyas Iyer made a first telling contribution of the season. Still, Karn Sharma’s late strikes in the day ensured that Mumbai didn’t run away with the proceedings on the opening day of its Ranji Trophy Group A clash against Railways, which started at the picturesque Gangotri Glades Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Had Sharma not spoilt Mumbai’s party with an accurate display of leg-break bowling in a prolonged spell of 19-4-34-3, Mumbai would have been in a much better position than ending the day at 244 for five. If it is to justify the decision to bat after the coin landed in Aditya Tare’s favour, Suryakumar Yadav, who is unbeaten on 60, and Abhishek Nayar will have to dig in deep on the second morning.

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It turned out to be an intense day’s play with the unchanged opening combination Herwadkar and Kastubh Pawar making a cautious start. In the absence of Anureet Singh, who, according to captain Sharma, was rested, Amit Mishra, the right-arm pacer who has switched allegiance from Uttar Pradesh, emerged as the lead bolwer. Left-arm pacer Deepak Bansal sprayed the ball in his opening five-over spell before getting his act together later in the day.

Mishra was rewarded in his sixth over when Pawar edged one that slightly shaped away to 'keeper Nitin Bhille. That started the most entertaining phase of the day. Shreyas Iyer edged the first ball he faced but then, in for the next hour and half, the batsman was at his aggressive best.

He opened his account with a sweet on-drive off the third ball he faced and followed it up with a straight-drive the very next ball. He then welcomed Karan Thakur into the attack with a cut shot and then followed it up with a couple of drives off Bansal after the left-armer changed ends for another burst.

Iyer took just 49 balls to register his maiden fifty of the season, completed with a single after nudging Thakur to the on-side. Herwadkar, too, started playing freely, completing his fifty with a straight six off Sharma. However, in the penultimate over before lunch, Iyer missed a flick off Thakur and was trapped in front of the wicket.

Yadav then took his own sweet time to gauge the nature of the wicket, which was slowing down as the day progressed. He had scored just five runs, with two shots, off the first 50 balls he faced. The Railways bowlers also got tidier, thus depriving Herwadkar of loose balls.

The second session saw just 67 runs being scored off 29 overs. When Herwadkar and Yadav resumed the charge, the left-handed opener was on 90 and appeared to be in a hurry to complete his third hundred in as many games. That prompted a false stroke as an uppish off-drive off Sharma in the fifth over of the session headed straight to Ashish Singh at mid-off. While Sharma got rid of Aditya Tare with a slider that the Mumbai captain failed to read, Siddhesh Lad threw his wicket away with an ambitious cover drive.

Herwadkar rues shot selection

Soon after the end of the opening day’s proceedings, Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit took Shreyas Iyer, Akhil Herwadkar and Siddhesh Lad aside and gave the trio a prolonged hearing on their poor shot selection.

While Iyer, who had been driving freely in the V, played across the line to be adjudged leg before with minutes remaining for the lunch break, Herwadkar missed out on his third hundred of the season by hitting leggie Karn Sharma straight to Ashish Singh at mid-off in the nineties. Lad, meanwhile, attempted an audacious, aerial cover drive off the Railways captain only to miscue it and offer Amit Mishra catching practice at extra cover.

The three strokes pegged Mumbai back and brought Railways back in the game after Iyer and Herwadkar’s blitzkrieg had given Mumbai the edge in the first session.

Herwadkar had no hesitation in raising his hand and taking the blame for his poor choice of the stroke that resulted in his dismissal. “I shouldn’t have played that stroke,” he admitted. “On a wicket that is not easy to score on, it was important for me to stay on after being well-set. Hopefully I’ll not repeat the same mistake again.”

Thanks to a combination of false strokes and accurate bowling by the Railways bowlers, Mumbai could accumulate just 114 runs off 55 overs in the last two sessions of the day. Herwadkar rued his dismissal in that effect as well, stating “had I stayed on, Surya (Suryakumar Yadav) and I could have continued to rotate strike and add more runs”.

Railways captain Sharma, on the other hand, was delighted with his team’s efforts. “We did manage to put brakes on the scoring rate and eventually managed to get the crucial breakthroughs as well,” he said. “Let’s hope we can restrict them tomorrow and then our batsmen can get their act together.”

Bista released for U-23 game

Meanwhile, opening batsman Jay Bista has been released from the Ranji Trophy squad for Mumbai’s Col. C.K. Nayudu Trophy (U-23) game against Vidarbha, to be played in Mumbai from Monday. Bista, who has been warming the bench for the last two rounds, including the ongoing tie against Railways here, will rejoin the Ranji squad after getting a much-needed hit in the middle.