Before the start of the fourth day’s play, Sachin Tendulkar had an extended, animated conversation with Dhaval Kulkarni, probably discussing strategies to get the Rest of India batsmen out cheaply. It looked like Mumbai, trailing by 144, meant business.
They sure did, but only till lunch.
Dhaval and Shardul Thakur, who was struggling in the first innings, displayed a fine spell of seam bowling in the morning session. Dhaval bowled eight probing overs without luck. When he shouted in frustration after substitute Kaustubh Pawar dropped a sitter off Murali Vijay at gully, it showed the hosts’ desperation for a wicket. And once Thakur induced the error from Vijay four overs later, Mumbai smelt blood, with Abhishek Nayar giving a torrid time to Manoj Tiwary yet again.
The break changed it all. Instead of continuing with Dhaval and Nayar, the left-armer Ankeet Chavan was summoned to bowl. What was more, he was asked to bowl a negative line outside the leg-stump. Javed Khan, from the other end, kept bowling high and wide bouncers in his seven-over spell. Vishal Dhabholkar replaced him. Chavan and he bowled 47 overs till stumps, with the sole intention of keeping things quiet.
For the record, neither Dhaval nor Nayar bowled a single over after the first session.
It was evident that Mumbai had resigned themselves to the obvious, post lunch. The body language of the fielders, and Nayar himself, was a stark contrast to the first session, where they showed intent and hunger for wickets. It also didn’t help having Tendulkar off the field for the entire day. Rarely did someone go up to the bowler to have a chat.
The fielding, too, dipped alarmingly. Dhaval later admitted Mumbai were only looking to contain runs after lunch, an approach they have often resorted to in the past. It explains their one outright win in the entire Ranji season before the final.