Ranji final: Gujarat calls the shots

Despite limited bowling resources, Gujarat took on Mumbai’s batting might with enthusiasm and energy. The Gujarat bowlers not only kept the Mumbai batsmen under check but also struck at regular intervals.

Gujarat's Chintan Gaja (left) celebrates with team-mates after dismissing Shreyas Iyer of Mumbai cheaply on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on Tuesday.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Gujarat put in the hard yards after electing to field on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final and shot out Mumbai for a modest 228 at the Holkar Stadium on Tuesday.

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With limited resources in the absence of fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and left-arm spinner-all-rounder Axar Patel, Gujarat, with the help of three seamers, a specialist left-arm spinner and a part-time finger spinner, took on Mumbai’s batting might with enthusiasm and energy.

 

After the fall of Siddhesh Lad to an extremely dubious decision by umpire Anil Chaudhary at the stroke of tea, Mumbai virtually crawled before Abhishek Nayar played some bold shots towards the end of the innings.

Mumbai had a chance to hit back with a wicket in the closing minutes, when Gujarat opener Samit Gohil nicked the first ball he faced from Shardul Thakur, but Prithvi Shaw — the highest scorer for Mumbai — put down a sitter at first slip.

Seamers with the ability to extract some bounce and get lateral movement off the pitch have largely met with success here, more so with the pitch having undergone a change with a high percentage of red soil in it. Even then, it was a courageous decision by the Gujarat skipper, Parthiv Patel, to send the opposition in to bat.

Initially the pitch did not seem to offer much for the astute and experienced Rudra Pratap Singh and Rush Kalaria — both left-arm seamers. However, what stood out though was the determination and commitment they showed right through their spells to not only keep the Mumbai batsmen under check but also strike at regular intervals.

After an ordinary first half-hour, R. P. Singh squared up Akhil Herwadkar, forcing the batsman to play across, and won a leg-before decision from umpire Nitin Menon. Thereafter, the first bowling change resulted in the dismissal of Shreyas Iyer, who played a poor shot to a delivery from medium-pacer Chintan Gaja.

The fall of Iyer was a big breakthrough and Gujarat took control of the proceedings thereafter. Shaw made an attractive half-century, as he executed some well-timed on-drives and rose on his toes to punch the ball through covers. He was dropped on 24 by Gohil of Gaja, but during his 164-minute stay, Shaw showed that he has the calibre to succeed in first-class cricket.

The third wicket stand between Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav, who hit a flurry of straight drives to score a half-century, produced 52 runs, but Shaw’s dismissal, again to a poor shot, put Gujarat on top.

Lad too paid the price for playing an indiscreet shot, but the decision given by Chaudhary was questionable, as there was a big gap between bat and ball.

Full marks to the Gujarat bowlers for keeping Mumbai under constant pressure. R. P. Singh bowled with dexterity, Kalaria tried hard and Gaja bowled a good line and length. And after the main batsmen were sent back to the pavilion, Bhatt chipped in with two wickets.

Gujarat excelled in bowling and, to a great extent, in the fielding too.