Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Sarfaraz Khan fifty keeps Mumbai afloat

Returning to Mumbai whites in five years, right-hander Sarfaraz Khan hits unbeaten fifty against Karnataka to keep hopes alive; Ajinkya Rahane fails again.

Karnataka quick Abhimanyu Mithun traps Ajinkya Rahane and appeals successfully for an lbw at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai on Saturday.   -  VIVEK BENDRE


Off-spinner Shashank Attarde picked a fifer in only his second first-class game. Shams Mulani bolstered his reputation as an all-rounder by playing a perfect second fiddle with the ball and the bat. B.R. Sharath displayed his breezy batting down the order. And Abhimanyu Mithun justified the tag of Karnataka’s pace-bowling leader by running through Mumbai’s top-order.

Still, an intense second day’s play of the high-profile Ranji Trophy league game between Mumbai and Karnatakan belonged to two batsmen who were making a comeback in their own ways.

R. Samarth, the Karnataka opener who had been dropped from the squad for the trip to Mumbai only to be recalled after Mayank Agarwal was advised rest by the BCCI, anchored the Karnataka innings with a solid 86 to ensure a slender 24-run lead at the MCA’s Bandra-Kurla Complex facility.

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Sarfaraz Khan, playing a first-class match in Mumbai’s whites for the first time in five years, then helped his side bounce back with an unbeaten fifty to keep hopes alive.

When Sarfaraz took guard after lunch, Aditya Tare, Ajinkya Rahane and Siddhesh Lad had repeated their first-innings streak of single-digit scores, with Mithun at his best. From 12 for three, things got worse for Mumbai when Mithun got one to rise and jag back a little to kiss Suryakumar Yadav’s gloves en route Sharath behind the stumps.

At 26 for four, Sarfaraz showed remarkable patience along with Mulani to weather the storm. Once Shreyas Gopal’s spin was introduced, he cut loose, driving the leggie through covers, employing a paddled-sweep before a conventional sweep sailed over the square-leg fence. But the shot of the day came moments later when he drove Mithun over covers for a big six.

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Earlier in the morning, Samarth continued his gutsy knock from his overnight unbeaten 40. Royston Dias and Tushar Deshpande posed a lot of questions with their contrasting pace bowling but Samarth was at his flawless best. Despite losing captain Karun Nair in the fifth ball of the morning, Samarth and Gopal added 78 for the fifth wicket before Surya lunged in the air to pouch a top-edge off the latter’s willow. Just when Samarth was cruising towards a deserving hundred, Attarde forced him into lobbing one to Sarfaraz at short-leg during an impressive spell that read 6-1-19-3.

Just when Sarfaraz and Mulani seemed to have kept the game in balance with an 83-run partnership for the fifth wicket — after Mumbai had been tottering at 26 for four in its second essay — V. Koushik forced left-handed Mulani to nick one in the slips off the last ball of the day’s play to tilt the balance in Karnataka’s favour.

With a lead of 83 runs and four wickets in hand — Prithvi Shaw having been ruled out of the game after hurting his left shoulder — Sarfaraz would realise his job is far from being done.

Brief scores: Mumbai  194 & 109/5 (S Khan 53*, S Mulani 31; A Mithun 3/52) leads Karnataka 218 (R Samarth 86, BR Sharath 46; S Attarde 5/58) by 85 runs
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