Spinners were expected to dictate terms at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds here after two days of wear and tear on the pitch. Instead, it was a seamer who stole the show in the morning and had a deep impact on the state of the match.
The tall Divij Mehra showed tremendous control and landed the ball on the same spot – good length – all morning; with some deliveries sharply coming into the right-hander after pitching, his spell wrecked Mumbai’s top order, the batters failing to negotiate the sharp movement.
Batters were caught between a rock and a hard place: while preparing for deliveries that would go on straight, batters failed to negotiate the sharp movement, while Armaan Jaffer, in trying to be prepared for this movement, edged behind to a delivery that went on straight after pitching.
With Pranshu Vijayran scoring valuable runs in the first hour – a drive, a pull, and a dab to third man accounted for three of his five boundaries – to extend Delhi’s first-innings lead to 76, Mehra’s spell left the star-studded Mumbai facing the possibility of a defeat.
Opener Musheer Khan was his first victim. The ball landed on a good length, came in sharply, and struck the batter’s pads before ricocheting onto the stumps. In his next over, Mehra got rid of the in-form Prithvi Shaw, who, just as in the first innings, fell lbw, and in the next, Jaffer edged behind to a delivery that landed on a good length outside the off-stump; the ball went on straight, but Jaffer appeared to be in two minds as he tamely hung his bat out.
All eyes were on Sarfaraz Khan, who had scored a century in the first innings. Will he again dig Mumbai out of a hole? The right-hander took strike and failed to keep out a delivery that came in and kept low. The off-stump went cartwheeling. Three overs later, No. 6 Prasad Pawar opted to leave alone a delivery from Vijayran, and lost his off-stump.
Mumbai was five down, and still 39 runs behind. Ajinkya Rahane, Shams Mulani and Tanush Kotian provided resistance, but it wasn’t enough to turn the situation around.
Mehra had this to say about his spell in the morning: “I tried to follow the instructions given to me by the captain and the coach. They told me to stick to a tight line because we expected the Mumbai batters to go for their runs on the third day to try to achieve an outright win.”
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