October 17, 2016 1:01:20 am
IT WAS a tossed-up delivery from Baroda’s left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh. On most occasions, Armaan Jaffer would driven it down the ground for a boundary. That did not happen today. Instead, he went forward and checked his shot. The ball just ballooned up, offering Swapnil a simple return catch. Taking slow, feeble steps, a desolate Armaan walked back to the pavilion.
This was his second failure in the match. But this would have surely hurt him more. As his India A team-mate, Rishabh Pant, entered the record books by slamming a quickfire triple hundred, a young Armaan could only muster scores of 1 and 13 in the two innings for Mumbai in their second Ranji Trophy encounter against Baroda here at the Air Force Sports Complex in Palam.
Batting fourth, the Ranji champions, in pursuit of an improbable 366, were staring down the barrel before tea on the final day. With close to 40 overs still remaining, Mumbai had lost half their side following Armaan’s tepid dismissal. Despite having conceded a slender 18-run lead in the first innings, Baroda now looked rampant. Mumbai, however, needed resistance. The five quick dismissals at the start now meant all hopes of going for an outright win had now evaporated. A drab draw was all they were now looking for.
Thankfully, the much needed rearguard came from their captain Aditya Tare and the journeyman all-rounder Abhishek Nayar. Tare, who was out stumped while playing the most horrendous shot in his first essay, now looked eager to make amends. Both Tare and Nayar abandoned flair (you can’t accuse the latter of much style anyway), and opted for a more dogged approach. Together, they displayed some old-fashioned grit to deny Baroda further scalps for the day.
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Armed with a firm, front-foot defence, the duo played out more than two hours efficiently to halt all possibilities of Baroda’s resurgence. It was a dour display, but under the circumstances, it was just what Mumbai had hoped for. Their stand stretched for over 35 overs, before both captains shook hands and called off the proceedings. While Tare notched up his half century, Nayar, consumed 99 deliveries for 11 runs.
Over the course of his decade-long first-class career, the all-rounder has made it a habit of bailing his team out whenever they were under strife. Even in the previous game, the 33-year-old scored an unbeaten 45 to help Mumbai register a win over Tamil Nadu. His efforts at Palam today helped Mumbai with a draw, and more crucially helped them garner three points.
Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit looked relieved at the end of the day’s play. He, however, sounded a note of caution to his players, especially the batsmen. “We are happy with three points. But there are certain areas of concern, which we need to address before our next game. We cannot afford Abhishek (Nayar) to keep bailing us out every time. Our top-order batsmen need to take more responsibility,” he said.
Despite walking away with just a solitary point for the second game in a row, Baroda captain Irfan Pathan exuded confidence over his team’s performance. He reckoned the series of soft dismissals in the first innings proved to be the difference between the two sides. “It would have been nice to get those five wickets. Having said that, this game has been a learning curve for our young team. The boys can take a lot of positives from this game. We still have a long way to go in the tournament. We have a break after this game, and the entire team is looking forward to the next six games,” Pathan said.
BRIEF SCORES: Baroda: 305 & 383/5 declared draw with Mumbai 323 & 224/5.
Points: Mumbai 3; Baroda 1.
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