Abhishek Nayar knows a thing or two about fortune and how it doesn’t always favour the deserving. On Wednesday (January 11), he was again exposed to this reality.
Although the Mumbai paceman’s tally at the tea break read a typically industrious 2 for 67 from 19 overs, Nayar will know that he should’ve had at least one more scalp by the end of the second session on the second day of their Ranji Trophy 2016-17 final against Gujarat.
Nevertheless, the 33-year-old seamer, working in tandem with a fiery Shardul Thakur and a disciplined Balwinder Sandhu, did well to keep Gujarat down to 203 for 3 from 61 overs at tea at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on Wednesday (January 11).
Those numbers would’ve looked dramatically worse for Gujarat if it hadn’t been for the unbeaten fourth-wicket alliance between Parthiv Patel, their skipper, and Manprit Juneja. The 97-run partnership brought Gujarat within 25 runs of Mumbai’s first-innings total of 228. The second session saw Gujarat add 130 runs from 29 overs for the loss one one wicket.
At the break, Parthiv, out to a no-ball on 20, made the most of his second life and reached 81 from 118 balls with 12 fours, while Juneja’s charmed life yielded 57 from 68 balls.
On a pitch that still had plenty for line-and-length-abiding seamers, Thakur and Sandhu set the ball rolling by consistently beating the outside edge of Priyank Panchal and Samit Gohel, the in-form openers.
It didn’t help Gujarat that Panchal and Gohel, who were coming into the final with over two thousand runs between them, 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 figured 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 Bhargav Merai more than he did Panchal, but it was Panchal 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, but Merai continued to keep it simple till the break. After the break, Merai, on 34 at the time, spotted a short and wide delivery from Nayar’s first post-lunch over and slashed at the opportunity for quick runs. All he managed was a faint nick to Tare. To Nayar’s disbelief, Anil Chaudhary, the umpire, didn’t raise his finger.
Chaudhary, who had ruled Siddesh Lad out when the batsman had not nicked the ball attempting a pull during Mumbai’s innings, was on the receiving end of glares from the Mumbai camp. Fortunately for the defending champions, the decision didn’t really hurt their progress in the session as Merai went after a wide delivery from Nayar and edged it to Tare.
Juneja, who announced his arrival with a boundary, was jittery, but Parthiv at the other end kept the proceedings in control with his confident strokeplay.
Juneja, despite repeated conversations with Parthiv, ended up offering the easiest of catches to Shreyas Iyer at short midwicket when he had just 15 runs to his name. To Nayar’s agony, Iyer let the ball slip through his hands. And in that moment, Mumbai also let go of their grip on proceedings in Indore.