If Sachin Tendulkar’s masterly, unbeaten hundred kept the contest alive on Friday, the interest in the Irani Cup faded on the penultimate day. Rest of India batsmen, mainly Rayudu and Manoj Tiwary, were content playing the waiting game rather than showing urgency to score quickly and setting up an exciting finish.
It was understandable, for the two were playing to impress the selectors. The Test side for the Australia series will be announced today. Rayudu, playing his maiden Irani Cup, was unbeaten on 118, while Tiwary (69) compiled his first half-century of the match. Rest made 296 for four in their second essay and took the overall lead to 413.
Giving Rayudu company was first-innings centurion Suresh Raina (40*). The two added an unbroken 89 for the fifth wicket.
Mumbai’s bowling was not at all penetrative. With no aid from the pitch, the spinners bowled most of the overs. But for an interesting tussle between Tiwary and Abhishek Nayar in the first session — the Bengal batsman traded verbals with Javed Khan to add to the spice — there was hardly anything for Mumbai to cheer about.
Resuming at 27 for one, Rest lost Murali Vijay and night-watchman S Sreesanth — Rohit Sharma had a hand in both the dismissals — but not before they saw off the first hour. Tiwary and Rayudu joined hands at 67 for three, and called the shots for the next five hours and 50 overs.
While Rayudu was at ease from the start, Tiwary struggled to middle the ball early on. He got a reprieve (on 1) when wicketkeeper Aditya Tare dropped an inside edge off Dhaval Kulkarni. A little later, he survived a leg-before appeal off Nayar. As he did in the first dig, Nayar tested Tiwary with in-swingers.
Once he got his timing right, picking a couple of boundaries through mid-wicket, he gained confidence. At one stage, Rayudu outpaced him. But in the post lunch session, Tiwary began to look comfortable as he stepped out to the spinners, Ankeet Chavan and Vishal Dabholkar. He matched Rayudu, who looked the better of the two and more comfortable against pace and spin, stroke for stroke. Their 140-run partnership for the fourth wicket ended after tea when Tiwary’s attempted sweep off Dhabholkar resulted in a top-edge on to his upper-arm en route to leg-slip.
Tiwary, who nearly did not walk in the first-innings after being declared leg-before, created another little drama. He indicated that the ball went off his upper arm, forgetting there was an edge before that. He will do well to start respecting umpire’s decisions.
The 27-year-old Rayudu, on the other hand, had no such problems, reaching his 14th first-class ton and serving a reminder to the selectors that he was also good enough to move from India ‘A’ to Team India.