Priyank Panchal and Samit Gohel, with over 2000 runs between them this Ranji Trophy 2016-17 season, have been significant factors in Gujarat making it to the title clash 66 years since their last time there.
Likewise, Shardul Thakur and Abhishek Nayar, with their combined tally of 45 wickets, have been crucial to Mumbai’s route to their 46th final appearance.
The contest between bat and ball was expected to be gripping, and so it was, but it was the Mumbai pace duo that came out on top, outsmarting Gujarat’s trepidatious openers to give the 41-time champions the edge on the second morning of the summit tie at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on Wednesday (January 11).
Gujarat, after bowling Mumbai out for 228, were reduced to 73 for 2 from 32 overs at lunch after starting the day with two overnight runs on the board. Gujarat trail by 155 runs with Parthiv Patel, the Gujarat skipper, and Bhargav Merai batting on 23 and 33 respectively.
On a pitch that still had plenty for line-and-length abiding seamers, Thakur and Balwinder Sandhu set the ball rolling by consistently beating the outside edge of Gujarat’s openers. It didn’t help Gujarat that Panchal and Gohel were highly indecisive in strokemaking. They barely put their bats to use, and when they did they weren’t convincing.
With as much hesitation in footwork, there’s only so far one can go, and Gohel found that out the hard way in the 11th over. As Thakur bowled from around the wicket at good pace, he was forced to play the delivery that shaped away after landing with the angle. Gohel, who was dropped by Prithvi Shaw on nought off the first ball he faced on Tuesday, would’ve hoped for another reprieve, but Suryakumar Yadav stayed low at second slip and took a good catch to end his forgettable 34-ball stay.
Nayar, who replaced Balwinder, was easily more skilful in controlling swing. Moving the ball both ways, the veteran troubled Merai more than he did Panchal, but was the latter that Nayar lulled into coughing up his wicket.
Having carefully watched and defended 50 deliveries, Panchal picked the wrong moment to poke at a length awayswinger from Nayar. The tentative prod was enough to earn an edge en route to Aditya Tare, the wicketkeeper and skipper.
Tare would again gather a simple catch not long after Panchal’s, but as luck would have it, his celebration this time lasted only until the third umpire checked for a no-ball.
Parthiv, who raced to 20 from 15 balls, was squared up by a brute of a delivery from Thakur in the 24th over. The ball angled from around the wicket and into the left-hand batsman before straightening. Parthiv, looking to close the bat face to run the ball towards long-on, edged a simple catch to Tare.
Parthiv had started his long walk back when the umpires asked him wait for Krishnaraj Srinath’s call. Replays showed that Thakur had crossed the line.
Parthiv, in his second life, was far more cautious. Knowing well that lunch was around the corner, the third-wicket duo kept its head down and dodged Mumbai’s seamers through a testing period. The 71 runs from 31 overs for the loss of two wickets in the opening session is a testament to how clinical Mumbai’s bowlers have been on a pitch that looks like it’ll play the same through the day.