Nothing seems to be going Mumbai's way this season. After losing in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy, the domestic giants failed to qualify for the knockouts of the Vijay Hazare Trophy limited-overs tournament. The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which is the BCCI's annual T20 tournament, provided them with the perfect platform to turn the tables. But the Zaheer Khan-led side began their West Zone leg with a loss to former champions Baroda by 19 runs at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.
The bowling department looked strong as Khan & Co. restricted Baroda to 144/5, justifying the decision to bowl first. However, Mumbai's inexperienced batting line-up failed to chase the achievable target, finishing at 125/8.
Though Khan remained wicketless, he kept things tight to finish with 4-0-18-0. It was expected that Yusuf Pathan, who walked in at No. 5 when Baroda were at 54/3 in the ninth over, would set the Wankhede on fire with his big hits. But none came from his bat as he looked to struggle to pierce the gaps, let alone go aerial. He was dismissed for 13.
But Baroda saw an unlikely hero in 20-year-old Hardik Pandya, who scored his first half-century in any form of senior cricket by smashing an unbeaten 82 (57 balls, 6x4, 3x6). The right-hander, batting at No. 4, played the last of his seven T20s for Baroda exactly a year ago. He made his first-class debut last year, appearing in two matches. However, he showed no discomfort against the experienced bowling attack of Mumbai.
All the brisk runs came from Pandya, who impressed with his running between the wickets and shot selection. He did not play one false stroke in his innings and shouldered the responsibility of seeing Baroda post a competitive total.
A target of 145 would have been dealt with ease by the Mumbai teams of yore. Not this one. In fact, you could count on Suryakumar Yadav and Abhishek Nayar to do the job. However, both struggled for runs as the experience of Munaf Patel (3/23) and Irfan Pathan (1/25), with able support from left-arm pacer Lukman Meriwala (2/16) and left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya (2/16), kept Mumbai on a tight leash.
One would have thought that runs ought to have come by easy for Mumbai as they made 51/1 in six overs as against Baroda's 25/2 in the Powerplay. However, some tight bowling, aided by sharp fielding, made life difficult for Mumbai. They will take on Gujarat at the Bandra-Kurla Complex Ground on Monday morning.
Earlier on Sunday, Gujarat got off to a bright start by defeating Maharashtra by 62 runs. Parthiv Patel, Gujarat's captain and wicketkeeper, led from the front by making 70. Y Venugopal Rao (47) also batted well as Gujarat posted 171/6. The two shared 80 for the third wicket. Gujarat then bowled out Maharashtra for 109 in 17.1 overs.
Mumbai vs Gujarat (10:00 am, Bandra-Kurla Complex Ground), Saurashtra vs Maharashtra (6:00 pm, Wankhede Stadium)