Shardul rescues Mumbai with bat and ball on 13-wicket opening day

replay of , Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, Group B, Asia Cup 2022, Dubai, August 27, 2022
Shardul rescues Mumbai with bat and ball on 13-wicket opening day

Vidarbha 31 for 3 (Taide 21*, Kulkarni 2-9, Shardul 1-14) trail Mumbai 224 (Shardul 75, Shaw 46, Yash 3-54, Dubey 3-62) by 193 runs

Shardul Thakur rescued Mumbai with the bat for the second game in a row after their middle order had collapsed either side of lunch on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final at the Wankhede Stadium. Fast bowler Yash Thakur and rookie left-arm fingerspinner Harsh Dubey had set Mumbai up for that collapse by sharing six wickets on a grassy surface.

Captain Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer fell for 7 each, but Mumbai waded past that passage of play and finished with a respectable 224, thanks to Shardul’s 37-ball half-century. When Shardul was lining up Vidarbha’s spinners, just like he had done against Tamil Nadu’s in the semi-final, Mumbai were in with a chance of posting a 250-plus total. But Umesh Yadav eventually had him holing out for 75 off 69 balls to restrict them as Shardul was the last Mumbai batter out.

Shardul then struck with the new ball, as did Dhawal Kulkarni, who was playing his farewell game in place of the injured Mohit Avasthi, to leave the final dangling on a razor’s edge. Vidarbha were 31 for 3 at stumps, with Atharva Taide unbeaten on 21 and nightwatcher Aditya Thakare unbeaten on 0. Kulkarni, in fact, had struck twice to dismiss Aman Mokhade (8) and Karun Nair (0). Taide could have also been dismissed on 8 had Shardul latched onto a difficult one-handed return catch in the seventh over.

Kulkarni, 35, pushed the ball too wide of off in the early exchanges against the left-hander Taide, but had both right-handers Mokhade and Nair nicking behind with perfectly-pitched deliveries.

Earlier, after having opted to bowl, Vidarbha didn’t glean as much movement with the new ball. Umesh and Thakare offered Prithvi Shaw and Bhupen Lalwani freebies, allowing them to settle in. Shaw was particularly severe on anything that was remotely full from the quicks, while Lalwani was more circumspect was the other end.

Mumbai were 75 for 0 at the first drinks break, but Yash struck soon after the resumption, having Lalwani tickling one behind, with Akshay Wadkar pulling off a spectacular one-handed grab inches from the turf. Shaw then tried to slog-sweep Dubey against the turn and ended up seeing his off stump knocked back for 46 off 63 balls. Dubey had got it to drift in, dip, and then break away past the bat-swing of Shaw.

In his next over, Dubey pinned Musheer Khan lbw for 6 with an arm ball from wide of the crease. Dubey also had Rahane slicing a catch to mid-off to vindicate his selection, ahead of veteran offspinner Akshay Wakhare, against a right-hander heavy Mumbai line-up. Dubey, 21, is playing only his eighth first-class game, but has been a consistent performer for Vidarbha in age-group cricket. He also has exposure outside of Nagpur, having worked with India spinner R Ashwin in club cricket in Chennai.

Soon after, Umesh bested Iyer with a brute of a delivery – a length ball that reared up and seamed away to hit the outside edge near the shoulder of the bat. A crease-bound Iyer simply hung his bat out to give Nair slip-catching practice. Thakare also probed away outside off and was rewarded with the wicket of Hardik Tamore (5).

When Shardul walked out to bat, Mumbai had lost six wickets for a mere 30 runs, but that didn’t stop him from stepping out to his third ball and pumping Dubey to the left of Dhruv Shorey at wide long-off. Shardul then crashed Dubey to the square-leg boundary, and Aditya Sarwate over long-on for six. Shardul had similarly dismantled R Sai Kishore and S Ajith Ram with vicious slog-sweeps and down-the-track lofts in the semi-final.

Yash, though, tested Shardul more with hard lengths and extra bounce outside off, but Shardul kept slashing him through or over gully. Yash even drew a leading edge from Shardul in the 50th over, but it eluded the reach of Dubey at mid-off. Yash worked his way around Shardul and got rid of Shams Mulani and Tanush Kotian.

Umesh, the leader of the pack, then returned to apply the finishing touches. He stuck out his right boot in his follow-through, and deflected the ball on to the non-striker’s end to catch Tushar Deshpande short in the 63rd over. In his next over, Umesh banged the ball into the pitch and had Shardul splicing a pull.

But Shardul wasn’t done yet. He trapped Shorey lbw for a duck with an inducker, and saved the day for Mumbai once again, along with Kulkarni.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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