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Report: QF - Mum vs Mah, Day 1

Centurion Suryakumar puts hosts in commanding position

With his first century of the Ranji Trophy 2013-14 season Suryakumar Yadav salvaged the Mumbai innings along with Vinit Indulkar, who missed out on a well-deserved ton in his comeback game for the hosts. Their efforts helped Mumbai to 306 for seven at the end of the first day’s play against Maharashtra. Iqbal Abdullah (9*) was batting with Zaheer Khan (5*) when play ended on Wednesday evening at the Wankhede Stadium.

Earlier, put in to bat in conditions favourable for bowling, Mumbai scored 92 runs in the morning session at the cost of three wickets. Wasim Jaffer opened the batting with Kaustubh Pawar, and the pair worked their way to 35, until the latter was dismissed.

Pawar nicked Samad Fallah to Rohit Motwani in the 10th over to depart for 19. Aditya Tare, who replaced him in the middle, was kept on his toes, especially by Anupam Sanklecha, who sent him back after he had occupied the crease for 42 balls. While on three, the batsman flicked Sanklecha towards mid-wicket and was caught by Fallah after being beaten earlier in the over. Mumbai were on 55 for two at that point.

The visiting bowlers kept the flow of runs in check. Part-time pacer Harshad Khadiwale bowled three maidens in a four-over first spell as skipper Motwani persisted with the fast bowlers.

Meanwhile, Vinit Indulkar, returning to the Mumbai side after six years, bided his time at the crease. He impressed with classy drives and held up one end.
The Jaffer-Indulkar pair chipped away at bowling, but the blossoming partnership was worth 37 when the opener returned to the dressing room for 44 in the last over of the session. After hitting Shirkant Mundhe for a four straight down the ground, he pulled at the ball and was caught at mid-on by Ankit Bawane. Two of his eight boundaries were straight drives off Mundhe.

Abhishek Nayar then came out to bat with Indulkar after lunch with the team on 92 for three. But after adding just five runs to the total, he edged Fallah to Kedar Jadhav at first slip. Suryakumar Yadav then joined Indulkar in the middle and the pair garnered runs and stabilised the Mumbai innings. Coming in at No.6, the stylish batsman plucked runs off the Maharashtra attack with some great strokes. Indulkar, at the other end, played a supporting role.

Motwani introduced spin in the form of Akshay Darekar in the 48th over. But Darekar bowled only two overs as the Mumbai batsmen collected 10 runs off him and the partnership crossed 50.

Khadiwale was then reintroduced into the attack, but was plundered by Yadav, who sent him racing to the boundary couple of times.
Breathing new life into the innings, he raced to his 50 off 62 balls with seven boundaries. Motwani missed a stumping off Darekar after Yadav reached his half-century, and the duo continued to build the innings and took the team past 150. Wresting the advantage from Maharashtra, the pair took the hosts to 176 for four tea.

Soon after the last session commenced, Indulkar brought up a carefully-compiled 50. The partnership also reached the three-figure mark. While Indulkar was 63, he was granted a life by the ‘keeper and the first slip as the batsman chipped at a Chirag Khurana delivery.

Continuing to milk the bowlers, Yadav brought up his first century of the season with a boundary off Mundhe, in just 115 balls. The partnership had reached 183 when Indulkar edged Sanklecha to Motwani to depart for 82.

With the team comfortably placed on 284, Abdullah came to the middle late in the last session. But Maharashtra then struck with the new ball. Sanklecha had Suryakumar Yadav caught at second slip by Khurana for 120 to give the visitors a crucial breakthrough. And Fallah accounted for the wicket of Shardul Thakur after the team reached the 300-run mark, bringing in Zaheer to the middle.

Abdullah and Zaheer then took Mumbai to stumps on the first day.

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Win against Gujarat boosted team: Zaheer

Indulkar likely to suit up for Mumbai, Zol for Maharashtra

A determined performance against Gujarat in the last match of the league phase has helped Mumbai qualify for the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy 2013-14. Once again under the leadership of Zaheer Khan, they will take on Maharashtra at the Wankhede Stadium in five-day game beginning January 8. The ace pacer had led the team to three outright wins before heading to South Africa and is now back at the helm for the defending champions.

The team had struggled in a few games in between. However, Mumbai pulled off an improbable victory in their last group encounter versus Gujarat to claim a berth in the knock-out stage. “The team looks good. We have had few days of practice. We are looking forward to the game. The last win has definitely helped in boosting the confidence of the team,” Zaheer told the media.

“Guys have performed at the right time. The last game was very crucial for us; we had to win that game. And especially when you know that Gujarat needed only one point (to qualify), and we managed to qualify, it is a big achievement on the team’s part. I always look at the positives. Now it is the knock-out stage, so every game counts,” Zaheer said. “Sometimes when you have matches like these and you are not supposed to qualify but you do, then you know that the morale is especially high.”

The hosts have lost key players through the season for various reasons like injuries, retirement and national call-up. Reflecting on the predicament that the team finds itself in, Zaheer said, “It can happen when a team is going through a transition phase. Especially Ajit (Agarkar) was instrumental in keeping everyone on track and keeping everyone together and helping the youngsters when it comes to bowling. And right now we have few youngsters playing and we have been trying new bowlers as well to see who can be useful in coming years for Mumbai cricket.”

“And the same goes with the batting as well. So that is why I think you will see that there are many guys who have played this season. It is a transition that the team is going through.”

The Mumbai batting line-up has faced ups and downs through the season. And Hiken Shah’s absence due to injury will add to their woes. But they are looking to cope with it and hopeful that Vineet Indulkar’s return will make a difference. Speaking about the situation, Zaheer said, “That is one thing that we had concerns about. Right now if you see, few of the batters, who have been playing regularly, are injured. It is an opportunity for others, especially for someone like Vineet, who has been around for a while and has been playing club cricket now. Having played at the Ranji Trophy level should help him deal with the kind of pressure, which we will be dealing with in a stage like this. But yes, we will miss the services of Hiken; he has played some good knocks for the team to get here. Along with a few others, Hiken will also be missed.”

The stand-in captain also mentioned that he is especially impressed with Shardul Thakur’s performance. “I am particularly impressed with Shardul Thakur; he has got the pace, which is required at a higher level as well. So that is very promising. He is someone who we should invest in for the future and hopefully we will get some good performances out of him. Shardul being able to bat is an added responsibility on him as well. And he is a good all-round prospect, I think.”

Speaking about the opposition, Maharashtra, who topped their group to qualify, Zaheer said, “Every team who has qualified for the knock-outs has done well. We are just focusing on our strength. We are happy to be in the knock-out stage and we are just taking it one game at a time.”
Meanwhile, Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani said, “It is a very crucial game. There is not much to be done about talking about the game and making it an issue. We have to go through the same processes that we have been doing all through the season. Let’s see what happens on the fifth day.”

The top two run-getters of the season are from Motwani’s team and most of the side has also been performing well. They will be further strengthened by the inclusion of Vijay Zol.

“It’s a great thing for us and these players too. This is a stage where we have to perform and we need to relish these opportunities,” he said about Harshad Khadiwale and Kedar Jadhav.

“Being in great form is something we need. Everyone is doing well. Team morale is very high,” he added.

Speaking about the team’s campaign so far, he said, “It’s been doing really well over the season. We have won three at home and one away. Winning three at home outright was not easy, considering Gahunje is a batting wicket. But the bowlers have done really well getting the 20 wickets and worked hard and they are in very good shape and hopefully they will do well in this game too.”

Talking about the opposition, he mentioned, “We haven't looked at the scores Mumbai has produced. We have been doing well in every department. Each and every bowler has contributed with wickets. We just have to target and get the small things right, whether it’s the four-five wickets in the beginning or the runs on the board.”