Irani Cup: Jaffer & Co. make Rest of India wilt

Vidarbha’s top order ensured a dominant start for the Ranji Trophy champion on Day One of the Irani Cup tie.

Wasim Jaffer’s century on Wednesday was his 53rd in first-class cricket.   -  Vivek Bendre

Faiz Fazal and Wasim Jaffer had been the shining stars in Vidarbha's maiden Ranji Trophy title. While Fazal had led the team from the front by notching up 900-plus runs, Jaffer had played the mentor’s role to perfection on and off the field. On Wednesday, the duo combined well to help Vidarbha put the Rest of India under pressure on the opening day of the Irani Cup contest.

Thanks to Jaffer’s unbeaten hundred – his 53rd in first-class cricket – and his 117-run partnership with Fazal for the second wicket, Vidarbha finished the opening day of the season-ending fixture at 289 for two. The team was also aided by a 101-run partnership between Fazal and opener R. Sanjay – their fourth century stand of the season – which set the tone for the extremely hot day at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium.

Fazal-Sanjay alliance

It may have been more than two months since Vidarbha featured in the white flannels but Fazal and Sanjay appeared to be playing without a break. The duo had little trouble facing Rest of India new-ball duo of Nadveep Saini and Siddharth Kaul. It prompted the Rest of India skipper to introduce R. Ashwin – the chief of the spin triumvirate, with Jayant Yadav being inducted in place of the injured pacer Ankit Rajpoot – as early as the ninth over.

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However, the batsmen were unruffled. Sanjay drove Ashwin through covers, and Fazal used the conventional and paddle sweep against Ashwin and the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem to good effect. Sanjay was lucky to survive a close leg-before shout when he missed a sweep off Ashwin and was rapped on the pads, but umpire Anil Chaudhary stood firm.

Fifteen minutes before lunch, Nair replaced Ashwin – the seasoned spinner had bowled a long 13-over spell – with Yadav. And the younger offie, playing his first first-class match since the first Test against Australia in Pune in February 2017, struck off the second ball as Sanjay flicked him straight to R. Samarth at short mid-wicket.

Silken touch

The phase of play between this juncture until stumps was all about Jaffer’s master-class. Ever since he caressed the first delivery he faced through covers for a boundary, Jaffer looked in silken touch and the boundary flowed literally at will. While the spin troika failed to restrict him on a placid pitch, the pace duo tried different tricks but to no avail.

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The two stand-out strokes of Jaffer’s unbeaten knock were flick off the pads off Saini. The first one was an aerial flick off his hips that bounced yards before the rope; he waited for the second ball and flicked it all along the ground to turn the clock back.

While Fazal missed the sixth hundred of the season with a sweep off Ashwin to fine-leg in the last over before tea, Ganesh Satish played a perfect second fiddle to Jaffer in the last session. Nadeem was finally rewarded when he enticed him into a false drive that lobbed to short mid-wicket but replays showed the spinner had overstepped.

Brief scores
  • Vidarbha 289 for 2 (Fazal 89, Sanjay 53, Jaffer 113*; Ashwin 1 for 66, Yadav 1 for 73) vs Rest of India