Ranji Trophy: Shreyas century tilts scale towards Mumbai

Shreyas Iyer scored a stroke-filled century on Day Three to give Mumbai a realistic chance of clinching the first-innings lead in its Ranji Trophy Group A tie against Gujarat.

Shreyas Iyer scored his first century of the season.   -  N. Sudarshan

Shreyas Iyer couldn’t have returned to form at a more opportune time. At the end of the second day, Mumbai, at 58 for three and still 379 adrift of Gujarat’s first innings total, was in a despondent mood.

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On day three however, Shreyas, with a stroke-filled 191 n.o. (310b, 18x4, 2x6), first dispelled the gloom, then set about eliminating the possibility of defeat and by the end of the day had taken Mumbai to 328 for six, giving it a decent shy at Gujarat's score.

With just a day remaining and Mumbai adrift by 109 runs, securing the first innings seems the only thing to play for. “I wasn’t worried [about my form],” Shreyas said. “I was getting good starts but wasn’t able to convert them. So it feels good obviously. But it’s not yet over.”

If the early morning buzz at the KSCA Stadium on Wednesday was all about Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel being called up for national duty, the rest of the day was Shreyas’ to own. In the company of nightwatchman Dhawal Kulkarni (61, 185b, 11x4) – no mug with the bat – he stitched together a 187-run partnership and ensured that Gujarat would go wicketless till an hour after lunch.

In the first half an hour alone he accounted for five boundaries, which more than hinted at the method the 21-year-old would employ to bail his team out. It probably rubbed off on Dhawal, who after having blocked his way to five runs from 55 balls, turned expansive.

He particularly took a liking for Axar Patel, lofting him over the infield on multiple occasions. Shreyas, on the other hand, was happy to deal in singles, more so with Gujarat having the field spread out for him. Samit Gohil, deputising for Parthiv, could have caught him down the leg side when on 55, but for a part-timer it was a difficult one.

“Today, they weren’t allowing me to play my strokes,” said Shreyas. “So I had to step out and manoeuvre the ball. I was trying to get to the non-striker’s end and to keep my body language positive. These things worked really well for me.”

For Gujarat, Jasprit Bumrah had his moments on the day – removing Dhawal and later Abhishek Nayar in the first overs of his new spells. So did Axar after a hard day’s toil when he bowled Suryakumar Yadav. None of them though had a lasting effect.

Reprieves

What could have indeed caused jitters came at the fag end like it did on Tuesday. Gujarat, which had managed to bowl two extra overs then and had the wicket of Aditya Tare in the last over, managed four on Wednesday and almost got Shreyas, not once but twice.

But Manpreet Juneja played the culprit, fluffing a run-out chance first with a rank bad throw to the wicketkeeper’s end and then dropping him at silly mid-on off Bumrah.