BENGALURU: An unheralded bunch of Madhya Pradesh bowlers stuck to the plans as a star-studded Mumbai toiled its way to 248 for five on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final here.
Despite an opening stand of 87 between skipper Prithvi Shaw (47 off 79 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (78 off 163 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) on Wednesday, Mumbai failed to drive home the advantage on a pitch that was not conducive for strokeplay.
Whether or not Mumbai reaches a 400-plus first-innings total will now depend on the season’s highest run-getter Sarfaraz Khan (40 batting off 125 balls, 3 fours), who is looking good for another big knock and is alongside the dependable Shams Mulani (12 batting off 43 balls, 1 four) in the middle.
While left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya was the tireless operator from one end, having sent down 31 overs for figures of one for 91, pacer Gaurav Yadav (23-5-68-0) was distinctly unlucky with the wickets column not reflecting the pressure he put on the Mumbai batters.
In fact, it was the pressure applied by Yadav which helped nippy seamer Anubhav Agarwal (19-3-56-2) and tall off-spinner Saransh Jain (17-2-31-2) to share the bulk of the spoils. After winning the toss, Mumbai enjoyed the advantage in the opening hour, with Shaw and Jaiswal taking on the MP attack.
The strategy to start with Kartikeya’s slow left-arm orthodox seemed to have backfired when Jaiswal lofted him over long-on for a six. Shaw followed suit and hit Kartikeya over long-off for a maximum. The best over of the day was the 12th when Yadav delivered a massive in-cutter with Shaw on strike and then bowled the outgoing deliveries, beating the bat as many as five times.
Jaiswal scored his first 30 runs off 52 balls but after gauging the two-paced nature of the pitch, started playing more cautiously. His next 48 runs came off 111 deliveries. The foundation for the first breakthrough was laid when Anubhav, who was bowling closer to the stumps, decided to move wide and fire in a couple of deliveries with the angle.
Minutes before lunch, Shaw managed to defend the first ball but played the second one across the line to see his stumps rattled. Armaan Jaffer (26 off 56 balls, 3 fours) looked solid until an inside edge went straight to Yash Dubey at short mid-wicket off Kartikeya.
The pitch slowed down considerably in the second session and Suved Parkar (18) paid the price when a delivery from Saransh stopped on him and the leading edge lobbed up to rival captain Aditya Shrivastava for the easiest of catches.
Meanwhile, Anubhav started cramping the left-handed Jaiswal for room. As he found it difficult to get the boundaries, Jaiswal, without much room, tried the square cut but failed to keep it down and Dubey took a sharp low catch at gully. Hardik Tamore (24 off 44 balls, 3 fours) was living dangerously till Saransh got the ball to straighten after pitching, taking the outside edge into Rajat Patidar’s hands at first slip.