Ranji Trophy: T. Deshpande, A. Dhumal shine for Mumbai

The late strikes in the day by Ankit Rajpoot and Kuldeep Yadav meant the game was in the balance with the defending champion ending the second day at 51 for two in its second innings, with a cumulative advantage of 59 runs.

Mumbai pacer Tushar Deshpande (pic) broke the back of UP’s middle-order with a fiery spell.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

It turned out to be a rookies’ day out at the Srikantadatta Narasimha Raja Wadeyar Ground on Monday as Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy Group A game against Uttar Pradesh was poised for an interesting finish.

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The seasoned Mumbai openers – Akhil Herwadkar and Kaustubh Pawar – may have given Mumbai a slight advantage by seeing off the new balls. But the late strikes in the day by Ankit Rajpoot and Kuldeep Yadav meant the game was in the balance with the defending champion ending the second day at 51 for two in its second innings, with a cumulative advantage of 59 runs.

Mumbai pacer Tushar Deshpande broke the back of UP’s middle-order with a fiery spell first up; debutant left-arm spinner Aditya Dhumal followed up his vital contribution with the bat with crucial breakthrough and an outstanding catch; Rinku Singh, playing only his second first-class game, then brought UP back into the game with an impressive knock.

Deshpande, playing his fifth game, has hurried the opposition batsmen as consistently as the number of times he has overstepped in his bowling stride. After Shardul Thakur had forced a false stroke off nightwatchman Saurabh Kumar’s willow in the first over, Deshpande snared through the UP middle-order with wickets off successive balls in the fourth over of the morning. He first coerced Shivam Chaudhary into a nick that flew to Shreyas Iyer at first slip and then rapped Umang Sharma on to the pads with one that was too quick for the right-hander.

At 45 for four, Singh took guard and the left-hander played all the Mumbai bowlers at relative ease. The left-handed batsman, fresh from a fifty and an unbeaten 43 in his debut match against Punjab last week, preferred to play straight even while the other UP batsmen continued to commit hara-kiri.

From the other end, he saw debutant Dhumal complement senior left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar by trapping UP captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar in front of the wickets for a duck. That left UP reeling at 117 for seven, in danger of conceding a defining lead. However, Singh then found support in Kuldeep Yadav as the left-handed duo took UP closer to Mumbai’s 233.

It was Dhumal who won the rookies’ battle as he enticed Singh into an uppish drive that headed straight into Herwadkar’s palms at covers. And the debutant then came into action as he broke a 46-run partnership for the ninth wicket between Yadav and Imtiaz Ahmed by running backward a a few yards from point and then lunging to complete a brilliant catch.