Kedar Jadhav (128, 168b, 18x4, 1x6) made the most of a reprieve early on in the innings and smashed his second century of the season to guide Maharashtra to 314-6 in a crucial Ranji Trophy Elite Group B fixture against Mumbai.
Ever since returning to domestic cricket after a hiatus, Jadhav has been in sublime form with scores of 283, 56 and 71.
The seasoned campaigner kept the momentum going at the Brabourne Stadium on Tuesday, coming into bat in a challenging situation, having lost two early wickets of Pavan Shah and Naushad Shaikh with just 23 on the board.
He took some time to settle in and went on to forge a crucial 105-run partnership with Siddhesh Veer (48, 113b, 8x4) on a surface that eased out after initially aiding the seamers.
Jadhav, however, got lucky on 37 when Suved Parkar dropped him at first slip off a Tushar Deshpande delivery, and Jadhav hit back with a boundary through the covers in the next ball. While Veer played on the defensive, Jadhav cut and drove fluently and scored a gritty half-century a while before lunch.
Though Mumbai struck in the post-lunch session with Veer being stumped by Prasad Pawar off a Shams Mulani delivery and Avasthi cleaning up captain Ankit Bawne for a solitary run, Kedar stood firm and brought up his 16th first-class hundred with a boundary off Siddharth Raut.
Maharashtra looked in firm control of the game, with Jadhav and Azim Kazi adding 96 runs for the fifth wicket, when Kazi was caught behind off a Mulani delivery. Momentum lost, Jadhav attempted to play a hook shot off a Deshpande bouncer but ended up offering a catch to Raut at fine leg.
However, Maharashtra’s lower middle-order fought back.
Aiming for a first-innings lead to make it to the quarterfinals, Saurabh Nawale (56n.o., 67b, 9x4) and Ashay Palkar (32 n.o., 62b, 5x4) forged an unbroken 87-run partnership. Nawale played aggressively en route to his quick-fire half-century, and crafted his innings with nine boundaries to keep Mumbai at bay.
In the absence of Sarfaraz Khan, who is down with a viral fever, Mumbai’s decision to bowl backfired as it failed to capitalise on a positive start and suffered a blow as spinner Tanush Kotian had to leave the field after being hit on the hand. He was taken to a hospital where he got six stitches, making him doubtful for the remainder of the match.