Had Prithvi Shaw not been called up for the tour game against New Zealand, Jay Bista would have either been serving drinks at The Emerald Heights International School ground or plying his trade for Mumbai Under-23 in a C.K. Nayudu Trophy game against Gujarat back home.
Presented with an opportunity to open the Mumbai innings, the bespectacled opener made a strong case for a permanent slot in Mumbai's batting order on the second day of its Ranji Trophy opener against Madhya Pradesh (MP).
More importantly, Bista's unbeaten 89 (96b, 12x4) helped Mumbai start its reply to MP's first innings total of 409 on a strong note. Half-way through the match, Mumbai was placed at 127 for one, with Siddhesh Lad, promoted to No. 3 in the absence of Shreyas Iyer, playing a perfect second fiddle to Bista in an unbroken partnership of 96 runs.
Fresh from a double hundred in an U-23 game versus Tamil Nadu, Bista hardly took any time to get going. The MP pace triumvirate, led by Ishwar Pandey, opted to start with a fuller line. But Bista kept them at bay with his sublime drives. And whenever Ankit Kushwah and Chandrakant Sakure drifted slightly onto the pads, Bista played the conventional leg-glace with no fuss.
It forced the MP pacers to pull the length back a little. But such was Bista's fluency that even with sweeper cover on the fence, he had little difficulty in finding gaps with his artistic punches and flicks. Despite losing Akhil Herwadkar, Bista didn't lose his touch a wee bit until the spin duo of Ankit Sharma and Mihir Hirwani pulled things back.
Bista in the past has shown a tendency to try and dominate every bowler and as a result, play a false stroke. However, he displayed his maturity by slowing things down against the spinners and playing for the stumps.
Not only did Bista's strokeplay leave a handful of spectators, including national selector Debang Gandhi, spellbound but also overshadowed Naman Ojha's big hundred earlier in the day.
Starting the day at 99, despite losing overnight partner Ankit in the opening over, Ojha took 10 balls to get the sought-after single. Then on, with the aid of Kushwah and Hirwani, Ojha ensured MP cross the 400-run mark. Ojha's marathon knock, which lasted almost 10 hours, eventually came to an end with a top-edge sweep off left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil that was pocketed by Minad Manjrekar running in from deep backward square.
Madhya Pradesh first innings: 409 in 144.3 overs (Naman Ojha 180, Ankit Sharma 67; Dias 2/57, Parkar 2/70 ) vs Mumbai 130/1 in 33 overs (Bista 89, Lad 22; Kushwah 1/29, Hirwani 0/12).
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