After 26 wickets fell on the first two days — 14 on Day 2 itself — on a minefield of a pitch where the ball is turning square, this match could end up with any team on Day 3. Starting the day on 36 for 2, Mumbai saw their big guns Suryakumar Yadav (95, 107b, 14×4, 1×6) and Sarfaraz Khan (75, 121b, 7×4, 1×6) come to the party, but with Saurashtra’s spinners Dharmendrasingh Jadeja (4-70) and Yuvrajsinh Dodiya (4-43) firing away regularly, the hosts folded up for 230.
Saurashtra’s joy of taking a 59-run first innings lead was, however, shortlived as they collapsed to 77 for 6 in the final session, before an unbeaten 43-run partnership for the seventh wicket between Prerak Mankad (25*) and Jadeja (24*) prevented further damage.
With Mumbai fighting back in typical fashion, Saurashtra closed at 120 for 6, with a lead of 179 and 4 wickets left in their bag. Somehow, Mumbai need to ensure that they don’t end up chasing too much on Thursday on a wicket which is turning vicious by the session.
Mumbai’s hero with the ball was yet again ‘that man’ Shams Mulani, who took four for 50 in 13 overs. The tireless left-arm spinner has by now bowled 42.1 overs in this match, while taking 8 for 159.
The 25-year-old, who made the ball hiss around on a spiteful pitch, looks set for another 10- wicket match haul.
In a clever move, Mumbai skipper Ajinkya Rahane chose to give a 9-over spell to pacer Tushar Deshpande, despite the wicket being a rank turner. The decision paid off handsomely as Deshpande scalped Saurashtra openers Harvik Desai for a duck and Jay Gohil for 15, before Mulani got into the act, dismissing Chirag Jani (18), Sheldon Jackson (11), skipper Arpit Vasvada (12) and Samarth Vyas (15).
Earlier, resuming at 36 for 2, Mumbai suffered a big blow when skipper Ajinkya Rahane (24) was out lbw while trying to sweep Jadeja. However, Yadav and Sarfaraz added 92 in 127 balls for the fourth wicket, sweeping, cutting and punching the Saurashtra spinners with ease. Surya looked set for his 15th first-class hundred, before he was caught brilliantly by a diving Jadeja off Dodiya.
With national selector Debashish Mohanty in attendance, Yadav, in the mix for Tests as well, was naturally miffed with himself on missing out on a hundred by just 5 runs.
“Obviously, there was a bit of disappointment of missing out on the 100, but I wasn’t thinking about the milestone while playing. In the morning, we had planned to try and go as near to the Saurashtra total as possible, because we all know how difficult the wicket was to bat on,” he analysed.
“We are trying to take a lead of as many runs as Possible, or if we hadn’t managed to take the lead, we thought, ‘no problem. It’s a four-day game, so we can bowl well in the second innings and stage a comeback in the match. Game mein colour hai abhi (there’s life in the match). There’ll be a lot of fun tomorrow.”