As an onlooker, you wish Abhishek Nayar didn’t bat with his left hand. In style, he’s anything but a gasp-inducing southpaw. The stance is unnaturally low, the feet parted as wide as a dam. He infuriates the game’s grammarians. Nayar admits he is no stylish. He doesn’t care about the left-hander’s flourish, or try to be “what I’m not”.
The man is terribly underrated, never spoken in the same sentence as Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. At some stage this season, the two will be called for India duty. But skipper Ajit Agarkar will sleep well. Nayar in form is a reassuring thought.
Mumbai might have struggled to touch 570 without his contribution on Saturday – an undefeated 107, holding the lower-order after Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed for 129. He batted in two gears, constructing the first part of his innings with glides and deflections. And as he would demonstrate later, he can strike spin with aplomb. He targeted Murali Kartik (2/151) who has had an unremarkable outing here.
He shared half-century stands with Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar – the offie breathing energy into the Mumbai innings with a brisk 41. Zaheer Khan, the last man in, helped him collect the last 14 runs needed for the ton as a jubilant Nayar gestured animatedly to his peers.
What did this knock mean? Last season Nayar missed three games on account a finger fracture. Yet he was second on Mumbai’s batting chart. “It’s been unfortunate because the injuries happened at the wrong time,” he said, reminding that they had nothing to do with his physical fitness.
A Police Shield hundred was the tonic he needed before the Ranji season. That innings, Nayar feels, has allowed him to “get into a groove”.
Mumbai, meanwhile, have tightened their grip on Railways. The visitors have lost their openers, closing at 86 for two. Shivakant Shukla and Amit Paunikar were let off by Kaustubh Pawar at third slip but couldn’t cash in on the reprieves. Ironically, Pawar pocketed similar chances off Agarkar to snare the two.
Sanjay Bangar has looked sound. The Railways skipper never allowed Powar to settle into a rhythm as he stroked him handsomely, clearing mid-on and mid-wicket.
Over to the third day and a Zaheer Khan inquisition.
Mumbai 1st innings (O/N: 344/4): A Rahane lbw b Upadhyay 129, A Nayar not out 107, A Agarkar lbw b Shukla 20, I Abdulla b Kartik 9, R Powar c Upadhyay b Shukla 41, D Kulkarni c Rawat b Shukla 1, Z Khan b A Singh 16
Extras: (LB7, W2, NB12) 21
Total: (all out; 151 overs) 570 (3.77 runs per over)
Fall of Wickets: 5-383 (Rahane, 104.4 ov), 6-443 (Agarkar, 116.2 ov), 7-462 (Abdulla, 121.1 ov), 8-525 (Powar, 134.5 ov), 9-532 (Kulkarni, 140.4 ov)
Bowling: K Upadhyay 27-2-108-1 (NB5, W1), H Rathod 26-3-82-0, A Singh 27-7-81-3 (NB2, W1), S Bangar 12-1-55-0, M Kartik 41-5-151-2 (NB5), A Yadav 5-0-33-0, S Shukla 13-1-53-3
Railways 1st innings: S Shukla c Pawar b Agarkar 18, A Paunikar c Pawar b Agarkar 9, N Bhille batting 21, S Bangar batting 36
Extras: (NB2) 2
Total: (2 wickets; 28 overs) 86 (3.07 runs per over)
Fall of Wickets: 1-22 (Paunikar, 9.3 ov), 2-31 (Shukla, 13.1 ov)
Bowling: Z Khan 9-2-13-0, D Kulkarni 8-1-13-0, A Agarkar 5-0-20-2, R Powar 5-1-40-0 (NB2), I Abdulla 1-1-0-0