Almost three overs before tea and seven on a row after the break, Shardul Thakur got the ball to do a bit in the air, and enough off the hard pitch to harass the Gujarat top order who cracked under pressure. Gujarat recovered from 53 for 3 to reach 102 without any further loss but still trail by 429 runs, a huge deficit that they need to erase to keep their Ranji campaign alive.
Unlike the Gujarat bowlers on Tuesday, Thakur found some outswing, and used enough shoulder into his action to get some bounce as well. On Wednesday morning, during an interaction with a commentator, Shreyas Iyer had spoken about the pitch. “We saw a bit of grass on it and when we touched the surface, we found it hard. It was still a good toss to lose as our batsmen have done well.” he said with a smile.
Mumbai couldn’t replicate the first-day ease — Akhil Herwadkar was Mumbai’s highest scorer on second day, adding 49 runs to his overnight 143 — but still managed to extend the total from 370 for 2 to 531.
Thakur set the tempo from the first ball with an outswinger that curved in late and full, forcing the left-handed Asad Pathan to make some adjustments to keep it out from his pad. For the rest of the spell, barring a short-and-wide delivery, he was always on the spot to keep the batsmen on tenterhooks. Gujarat also had to adjust to the fact that Parthiv Patel, their regular opener couldn’t open as he had to leave the field while keeping after sustaining a rib injury trying to gather a RP Singh delivery that bounced awkwardly in front.
Pathan didn’t look comfortable out there and fell, edging a drive off Balwinder Singh Sandhu in the 11th over.
Priyank Pranchal, who has the confidence of scoring 650 runs this season, was more at ease, particularly against Sandhu who struggled to find his length initially, and was a bit all over the place. Pranchal didn’t spare any chance to play the cut shot to Sandhu, and was cautious against Thakur before the bowler found a way to remove him. Never shy of bowling a few bouncers, Thakur got one to rush up at Pranchal who edged his attempted pull to the ‘keeper Aditya Tare, who leapt smartly to pouch it with his right hand.
Gujarat were on 47 for 2 in 15 overs, Patel was still recovering from his rib injury.
Manpreet Juneja, who had 295 runs in five games before this, didn’t last long against Thakur. In a dismissal that brought up similar memories of Ramnaresh Sarwan, he was squared-up by a delivery that cut away from the middle and off line and offered a regulation catch to the second slip.
By this time, a bustling Thakur was in his element and it wasn’t a surprise to see him extend his spell. A wholehearted effort highlighted by the fact that his captain Aditya Tare was tempted enough to bring him back for two more overs at the end.
That Juneja dismissal was the moment it seemed Gujarat could crack up completely. Patel was still nursing the injury, and even Badre Alam, the skiddy medium-pacer playing his first match of the season, second of his career, had begun to get his lines right.
Alam’s action first caught the eye. The left arm collapses into his chest during load-up, and he releases after one final heave-ho almost. He was a touch wayward at the start before he settled in to hit a line outside off; there wasn’t much movement but he was a touch skiddy and kept the batsmen honest.
Merai, who has 396 runs with four fifties this season, was the more fluent. Striving to play close to the body, he defended well and punched a few short-of-length deliveries. Bhatt, who has batted Gujarat out of few lower-order crisis this season through three fifties, also did his gritty bit to soak up the pressure. He played out 34 deliveries and added 49 runs with Merai to keep Gujarat in the game. A tough Day 3 awaits them and they need heavy contributions not only from this pair but also from the rest of the line up to progress to the knockouts.
Brief scores: Gujarat 102 for 3 (Thakur 2-21) trail Mumbai 531 (Akhil Herwadkar 192, Suryakumar Yadav 104, Axar Patel 3-99) by 429 runs.