Ranji Trophy: Punjab motivated by Shardul Thakur-less Mumbai

At the end of day two of round nine, Mumbai was 8 for 2, trailing by 460 runs.

Manpreet-Gony-Aditya-Tare

Aditya Tare celebrates after taking a sharp catch to dismiss Manpreet Gony.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

It was a hard grind that spanned 170 overs. Cricket stood still, as time moved briskly. Mayank Siddana and Gurkeerat Mann took Punjab to a total of 468 against Mumbai on the second day of the Ranji Trophy Group 'A' encounter at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Thursday. At the end of day two of round nine, Mumbai was 8 for 2, trailing by 460 runs.

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Punjab was on a mission and there was no luxury of indulging in any attempt at entertainment, except for brief spells. Two senior citizens who had driven from London to Mumbai, on a different mission, and had reached the stadium specifically to see the most modern cricket venue in the country, were perplexed to see the empty stands and two teams that could not be categorised as home teams.

For Raj Karadi and Ramesh Chauhan, it was perhaps a stark contrast to cricket back home in London, but for the teams, it was a professional task, possibly to promote individual career.

Thus, medium pacer Shardul Thakur going away on national duty for the Test against England after taking both the Punjab openers on Wednesday, reducing the Mumbai team to a similar status as a snake without its venom, was also a welcome news of progress.

As a top class team that has already ensured its qualification to the knockout phase, Mumbai handled the added challenge manfully, as occasional offspinner Suryakumar Yadav added two more wickets to his overnight dramatic haul of two wickets in one over.

Skipper and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare also had a fine time behind the stumps for Mumbai as he grasped five catches in all. The pick of the lot was the one he took, right on top of the stumps, to dismiss Manpreet Gony who was looking for the big hits.

Of course, by then, the century by Mayank Siddana and a fluent 93 by skipper Gurkeerat Mann — the third Punjab player to miss a century in the innings — had literally killed the enthusiasm of the Mumbai attack on a surprisingly lively pitch.

Gony resumed his entertainment from where he had left at the batting crease, by sending the off-stump of opener Shreyas Iyer flying, with a deceptive delivery that the batsmen had misread.

That was a token sight of inspiration for the Punjab team which needs to conjure up an outright victory in the next two days against the formidable opponent to possibly revive its chances of making the quarterfinals, against heavy odds.

With only pride at stake, Mumbai will do what it takes, to be better prepared for the knockout stage, by enacting another grind.