Ranji Q/F: Captain Tare's late assault keeps match in balance

Tare’s unbeaten cameo eventually helped Mumbai end the day at 102 for three in its second innings, after bowling Hyderabad out for 280.

Aditya TAre Mumbai captain

Mumbai captain Aditya Tare upped the tempo of the game in the last hour.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

A little while after stumps, Mumbai captain Aditya Tare, having taken off the pads and changing into the team’s training gears, joined some of his teammates for a chat next to the sightscreen. None of the players who were hanging around had a hearty laugh, but neither did their faces appear tense. Had Tare not upped the ante in the last hour of play on the third day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Hyderabad, the Mumbai camp would have returned to the hotel much more concerned.

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Tare’s unbeaten cameo eventually helped Mumbai end the day at 102 for three in its second innings, after bowling Hyderabad out for 280. The overall lead of 116, on a wicket that has started deteriorating, may not be enough to make Mumbai feel confident enough to continue its title defence, but Tare’s onslaught has definitely made matters difficult for Hyderabad.

With Tare deciding to play his shots, the Hyderabad pacers began to err in their line and length. Mohammed Siraj, especially, erred on the fuller side and Tare made full use of the half-volleys, caressing him for five boundaries. Left-arm spinner Mehdi Hasan, the chirpiest of the Hyderabad fielders, kept Tare quiet, conceding a single off the 11 balls he bowled to the Mumbai captain.

What made matters worse for Hyderabad was the fact that K. Sumanth, the wicket-keeper who had helped Hyderabad inch closer to Mumbai’s first innings total of 294 along with the tail earlier in the afternoon, conceded 12 byes, with balls starting to keep low from the far end.

Barring that hour’s passage, things were pretty tight for the remaining day’s proceedings. Tanmay Agarwal and B. Sandeep resumed Hyderabad’s first innings at 167 for three and the latter was lucky as he was dropped by Tare off Akshay Girap in the first hour of the morning.

With the Mumbai bowlers bowling immaculate lines, the left-handed duo failed to break the shackles, even with the new ball.

Abhishek Nayar gave Mumbai the breakthrough in the sixth over with the new ball, forcing a nick off Sandeep to Tare. Shardul Thakur, who bowled his heart out during a marathon 10-over spell with the second cherry, was finally rewarded for his short-ball theory against Agarwal as the opener chipped one to Praful Waghela at forward short-leg. Had Kevin d’Almeida latched on to a regulation catch at first slip off Sumanth’s edge off Thakur, Mumbai could well have earned a sizeable lead.

With Sumanth holding on to an end, Hasan went after the Mumbai bowlers and rode on his fortune. With mistimed lofted strokes landing in no man’s land for almost half a dozen times, Hasan cleared the circle with little trouble off Girap and left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil, who was introduced into the attack at the stroke of lunch.

At lunch, Hyderabad was 58 runs behind Mumbai’s first innings total. Post lunch, however, Gohil settled into a rhythm and changed the complexion of the game in the fifth over after lunch. He first snared a return chance offered by Hasan inches off the ground and four balls later, got one to spin away from Akash Bhandari – the other quick scorer – caught behind for a nought.

Despite Sumanth scoring freely and even farming the strike with last-man m. Ravi Kiran, Thakur forced a nick off his willow off the first ball of a new spell to ensure Mumbai had the psychological edge with a slender first innings lead.

C.V. Milind and Siraj did their best to negate the advantage by striking the timber thrice to see off three top-order batsmen before Tare ensured Mumbai held the upper hand going into the penultimate day’s proceedings.