Rahane, Musheer build Mumbai’s lead after bowlers decimate Vidarbha

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Rahane, Musheer build Mumbai’s lead after bowlers decimate Vidarbha

Mumbai 224 and 141 for 2 (Rahane 58*, Musheer 51*) lead Vidarbha 105 (Rathod 27, Kotian 3-7, Kulkarni 3-15, Mulani 3-32) by 260 runs

Vidarbha’s hopes of winning the Ranji Trophy for the third time seem to be hanging by a thread. They needed one big batting performance on the second day to inch closer to Mumbai’s 224. Even that would’ve perhaps just kept them in the game, but by being bowled out for 105, they seem to have conceded way too much ground to recover.

That became increasingly evident when Musheer Khan and Ajinkya Rahane hit industrious unbeaten half-centuries in an unbroken 107-run third-wicket stand that helped Mumbai end the day effectively on 260 for 2.

Resuming on 31 for 3, Vidarbha ran into an inspired Dhawal Kulkarni. The veteran, playing in his final Ranji Trophy game, built on his overnight two wickets by snaring a third when he had the in-form Atharva Taide nicking a superb away-swinger behind in the same over where he nearly had him lbw.

Aditya Thakare, the nightwatcher, and Akshay Wadkar, the captain, resisted briefly in putting together 40 for the fifth wicket. It was the only passage where Mumbai were made to earn their wicket, with Tushar Deshpande, the fast bowler, resorting to short-ball tactics especially when the two offered good technique against the seaming ball.

As he’s often done over the past two seasons for Mumbai, Shams Mulani, the left-arm spinner, delivered the breakthrough. He first had Thakare lbw with an arm-ball and then had Wadkar jabbing at one that dipped and spun away, as wicketkeeper Hardik Tamore took an excellent catch.

From 85 for 6, offspinner Tanush Kotian got into the act, running through the lower order as Vidarbha lost all their seven wickets before lunch, lasting all of 45.3 overs. Kulkarni finished with 3 for 15, while Mulani and Kotian between them had 6 for 39.

Deflated but needing early wickets to stay alive, Vidarbha had a shot in the arm when Yash Thakur clean bowled Prithvi Shaw with an in-ducker that snuck through bat and pad. One became two when Harsh Dubey, the left-arm spinner, had Bhupen Lalwani flicking to short midwicket to leave Mumbai 34 for 2, with their lead at 153.

This is when Rahane and Musheer got together in the middle session. For a better part of their first hour at the crease, batting was a struggle. Rahane was beaten on both edges, he played and missed on a number of occasions and seemed extremely fidgety while defending, especially against Umesh Yadav’s late reverse.

Musheer tried to negate the movement by batting well outside the crease and then taking a step further down the pitch as part of his trigger to try and meet the ball early. It didn’t necessarily make for pretty viewing with both of them struggling to get going, even as scoring was reduced to a crawl. At tea, Mumbai were 52 for 2 after 25 overs.

After the break, Rahane seemed to turn a corner. He played a gorgeous on-drive and then executed a superb pull in front of square to get into his element. As his innings progressed, time spent at the crease helped him grow in confidence and runs began to flow. He brought out a trademark flick against the turn through midwicket off Aditya Sarvate and then superbly square drove Umesh for a four to bring up only his second half-century of the season.

On 38, Rahane was given out lbw to Dubey, but was saved by the DRS when replays confirmed he had got a thin inside edge onto the pad. That he built on this reprieve and batted sedately for the remainder of the day had the entire Mumbai contingent delighted as they closed out a day of dominance.

Rahane has been steadfast in his belief that it needs just one knock to turn the tide. After an entire season of struggle, it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. He’d want – and all of Mumbai would want – for him to go on and get to that century and beyond to bat Vidarbha completely out of the match.

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