Sarfaraz Khan (226 n.o., 213b, 32x4, 4x6) continued his sensational form with a stellar unbeaten double hundred to bail Mumbai out of trouble on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Group B tie against Himachal Pradesh at the scenic HPCA Stadium on Monday.
Sarfaraz’s belligerent innings days after his unbeaten 301, and sensible knocks from captain Aditya Tare (62, 100b, 8x4) and Shubham Ranjane (44 n.o., 75b, 7x4) meant Mumbai recovered from a precarious 16 for three to end the opening day at 372 for five after being sent to bat first.
Barring the first hour, which saw new-ball duo of Abhinay Kanwar and Vaibhav Arora seeing the back of Mumbai’s top-three, nothing went in favour of the home team.
Arora was the pick of the bowlers, bowling two charming inswingers in the fourth over that dismissed both the openers. Both the openers shouldered arms, resulting in Jay Bista being rapped on the pads while Bhupen Lalwani’s off-stump was uprooted.
When Kanwar castled Hardik Tamore who was late on the ball off a straight one in the next over, Mumbai was in danger of folding up early, as it often did at home at the start of the season.
But Sarfaraz took the pressure off a stuttering Siddhesh Lad by taking the attack to the opposition.
Once the dampness evaporated, Sarfaraz shone as bright as the snowy mountains overlooking the stadium. Despite losing Lad who was again late on the ball to hand Raghav Dhawan his wicket. , Raghav is the elder brother of all-rounder Rishi Dhawan who missed his second successive game due to an injury.
Mumbai ended the session at 118 for four with Sarfaraz crossing the half-century mark.
Sarfaraz Khan scores triple century despite illness
The early period of the next two sessions saw Sarfaraz literally kill the contest with his onslaught. He raced from 52 to 100 in just half an hour after lunch, with his five fours in a Pankaj Jaswal over — cover drive, backfoot punch, short-arm jab pull, late cut and cover drive — being the highlight.
Similarly, despite seeing Tare chasing a wide one by Dhawan to be caught-behind to end the 143-run partnership, Sarfaraz waged another assault after tea on HP bowlers.
With Rawat not bowling a ball after lunch, the HP bowlers were left clueless to Sarfaraz’s onslaught as he raced from 132 to 200 in just 43 balls after tea.
HP tried defensive tactics with pacers bowling wide outside off and left-arm spinner bowling leg-stump line, but Sarfaraz’s innovative strokeplay meant Mumbai finished the day with a run rate of almost five an over.
While Sarfaraz played a chanceless knock, umpire S. Ravi’s error - he adjudged Ranjane not out despite the batsman having been caught behind bat-pad off part-time leggie Prashant Chopra on 17 - helped Mumbai as the unbeaten 158-run partnership for the sixth wicket off 157 balls put Mumbai in driver’s seat.
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