Akshdeep Nath, a member of India’s Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2012, is the seniormost member of Uttar Pradesh’s largely inexperienced batting line-up. He couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than Sunday to come to the fore. Thanks to his unbeaten hundred - with able assistance from Mohammad Saif and Rinku Singh - UP staged a rescue-act against Mumbai on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Group B tie.
Akshdeep’s unbeaten 115 (215b, 16x4, 2x6) - and his partnerships of 96 with Saif (42, 60b, 6x4) and unbroken 137 with Rinku Singh (71 n.o., 134b, 7x4) for the fourth and fifth wicket, respectively - ensured UP recovered from 48 for three to end the day at 281 for four at the Wankhede Stadium.
As it happened |
When Akshdeep joined Saif, UP was in danger of regretting its decision to bat. Despite seeing off the new ball, openers Aryan Juyal (done in by an inswinger) and Almas Shaukat (edged a fuller one to gully) were sent back by Akash Parkar, the first-change seamer who replaced Vinayak Bhoir for Mumbai. To make matters worse, Umang Sharma played left-arm seamer Royston Dias on to the wickets.
Having lost three for 12 in 31 balls, Akshdeep adopted the aggressive approach. A flurry of boundaries meant UP raced to 101 for three at lunch. The onslaught resulted in Mumbai bowlers dropping their shoulders. With spinners having little role, pacers bowled far too short and wide.
With Akshdeep and Saif growing in confidence, the boundaries continued to flow in the afternoon despite a defensive field. Even after Saif was caught down the leg off Dias while attempting a pull, Rinku carried on and the left- and right-hand combination continued to unsettle Mumbai till the end.
Akshdeep reached his hundred with twin boundaries in an over off offspinner Shashank Attarde in the last over. He and Rinku continued to milk the bowlers till stumps. If the duo can counter the second new ball - just 10 balls old - on Monday morning, it can virtually put an end to Mumbai’s hopes of qualifying for the knockouts.
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