RAJKOT: Tamil Nadu’s inability to polish off the tail hurt them badly on day three as Mumbai raced to a 101-run lead in the Ranji Trophy semi-final here at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. A healthy contribution from the lower-order powered Mumbai to 406 all out in their first innings after a century stand between skipper Aditya Tare (83) and Abhishek Nayar (58) took them past Tamil Nadu’s total of 305.
Tailenders Shardul Thakur (52) and Balwinder Sandhu (32) rubbed salt into Tamil Nadu’s wounds. Shardul, who hit his maiden first-class half-century, added 44 runs for the eighth wicket with Balwinder and batted sensibly to make 27 runs for the last wicket with Vijay Gohil.
Tamil Nadu started the day in right earnest as Vijay Shankar removed overnight batsman Shreyas Iyer (36) to leave Mumbai at 190 for five. But it was all downhill from there for TN as Aditya and Abhishek diligently compiled a century stand for the sixth wicket as Mumbai took the all-important first innings lead.
Tamil Nadu played a part in letting the partnership blossom. The frequent field changes suggested that they were in a dilemma whether to attack or defend and a few glaring lapses let the batsmen off the hook. If Abhinav Mukund’s decision to delay the new ball until the mandatory change in the 100th over was baffling, pacer Aswin Crist bowling just one spell of four overs until tea was equally surprising.
Abhinav said he had a reason behind the delay though it didn’t really work out. “I think the idea was to use the soft ball. Yesterday (on Monday) the hard ball was taken for runs, I thought the more I delayed, the easier it would be. Off-spinner B. Aparajith was troubling Abhishek and I wanted him to continue that,” he explained.
Left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas bowled a long spell from the far end and kept Mumbai’s run-rate under control, but he didn’t trouble enough to break the partnership. At one juncture, Aditya could score just three runs off the 50 deliveries he faced from the left-arm spinner.
With the new ball in hand, TN bowlers started creating opportunities. Abhishek was dropped on 52 by B. Indrajith at first slip off the bowling of his twin brother Aparajith. The 121-run partnership that frustrated TN finally ended when the left-handed Abhishek was trapped by off-spinner Aparajith.
Left-arm pacer T. Natarajan, operating with the new ball, troubled Aditya by peppering him with short-pitched deliveries. When he sneaked in an angled off-volley, Aditya couldn’t resist playing a drive that found the fielder at covers. Ganga Sridhar Raju completed a low catch to end the Mumbai captain’s long vigil. After tea, Vijay accounted for Balwinder, and Akshay Girap, both caught behind. Akshay’s was Dinesh Karthik’s fifth catch of the innings.