That the final day of the Irani Cup match between Mumbai and Rest of India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was not the most important event at the ground on Sunday (February 10) was brought home emphatically, first by the sight of Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina walking out to resume Rest of India’s innings in the morning, and then when Wasim Jaffer progressed to a serene century, even as the Indian selectors, a few metres away in the Cricket Centre, announced a Test squad that had no room for Jaffer in it.
The day ended with Rest of India retaining the Irani Cup thanks to their first-innings lead of 117 runs, to continue their stranglehold over a trophy they have now won 13 times in the last 15 seasons.
That Rest of India chose to bat on for a good 100 minutes despite ending Day 4 with a 413-run lead, a total that Mumbai was extremely unlikely to chase down in a day, effectively killed any chance of the match ending in a result, and the only point of interest was if any of the players on the fringes of selection for the Test squad could add or detract from their case.
Jaffer did it in style, ending the day on 101 not out in Mumbai’s 160 for four in 54 overs, when play was called off in the third mandatory over, but he had to be content with being the highest scoring opener in the match, with no corresponding national call-up. Over the course of his innings, Jaffer also became the highest scorer in the Irani Cup, going past Gundappa Viswanath’s tally of 1001 runs.
In the morning, Rayudu continued to build on his good batting from the previous day, playing with the confidence of a man in form. Raina, overnight on 40, completed his half-century early on, and both men comfortably negotiated the new ball that Mumbai had taken at the start of the day.
Raina fell while trying to play one shot too many, stepping out to Vishal Dabholkar and edging to Ajinkya Rahane at third man. That ended a partnership of 145 in which Raina had contributed 71. Wriddhiman Saha, who had missed out on a good score in the first innings, hit a couple of well-timed shots down the ground, and the long-awaited declaration finally came with Rest of India on 389 for five, with the lead a mammoth 506, and Rayudu ending on 156 not out.
Mumbai’s second innings, in which Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t come in to bat till five wickets had fallen, since he had spent the whole of Day 4 off the field, lacked any real intensity. The batsmen had all to lose and nothing to gain, since a victory was impossible, but a rush of wickets could lead to defeat.
Harbhajan Singh celebrated his recall to the Test side with a probing spell, accounting for Aditya Tare and Rahane, both caught close in. None of them had looked particularly convincing in their stays, but with Jaffer going smoothly, Mumbai weren’t in any real danger. Mumbai would, however, have been very disappointed by Rohit Sharma’s second irresponsible shot in the match, when he holed out to Abhimanyu Mithun off Pragyan Ojha for just one.
With the match headed towards a draw, several part-time bowlers were pressed into service, with Raina, Manoj Tiwary, M Vijay and Rayudu combining to send down 15 overs. Jaffer duly completed a richly deserved ton with a tuck to fine-leg off Rayudu, and an over later, with Rest of India having caught up with the overs necessary to bring up an abysmal over-rate, play was called off, not a moment too soon.