After cutting Abhishek Nayar for a couple to deep point, Suresh Raina jumped with jubilation. He pumped his fist, resembling a pugilist throwing an uppercut. The southpaw then kissed the Tricolour on the helmet before raised his bat towards the dressing room.
Perhaps, Raina was aware of the significance of this century. For all you know, it could go a long way in resurrecting his Test career which is just 17-matches-old. The ODI regular, who averages a poor 29 in whites, batted at No 6 in the two-Test series against New Zealand that India won last year, scoring 55 and 0 in the second Test in Bangalore. He’d scored just three in Hyderabad.
Subsequently, he lost his place to Yuvraj Singh, who made a remarkable recovery from cancer, for the first three Tests against England. Yuvraj’s only notable contribution — 74 — came in the first Test in Ahmedabad. It was all downhill for Yuvi — and India — after that. Expectedly, Yuvraj lost his place after scores of 0 & 8 (Mumbai) and 32 & 11 (Kolkata) as India went on to lose the series 1-2.
Given that the slot is vacant, Raina has certainly staked a claim. With the national selectors watching, the 26-year-old played a chanceless knock, adding 98 to his overnight score of 36 for his 11th first-class hundred. Raina, here after a fruitful ODI series against England, had expressed his desire to score a big one in the Irani Cup. His 134 (169 balls, 14x4, 5x6) in nearly five hours, and his 153-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Abhimanyu Mithun (51, 90 balls, 9x4, 1x6), helped Rest post 526 in their first innings.
At stumps on Day Two on Thursday, Mumbai gave a fitting reply, making 155/2, but still trailing by 371 runs. Wasim Jaffer continued from where he left in the recent Ranji season, making a stylish 80 (126 balls, 11x4, 1x6), and sharing 132 for the second wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (55 batting, 108 balls, 8x4). His classy knock will only put the selectors in a spot when they meet on Sunday to pick the side for the Australia series.
The Wankhede strip only got better for batting. No matter how much the bowlers tried, the bat dominated the ball. So much so that even No 8 Mithun helped himself to his third first-class fifty. That the Mumbai bowlers did not test Raina earlier in the day showed lack of variety from the home side. Raina grew in confidence, particularly playing behind square on the off-side and stepping out to left-arm spinners Vishal Dabholkar and Ankeet Chavan at will.
As a prelude to the Test series, Raina also took into confidence Mithun’s batting abilities as the two raised the highest stand of the innings. Raina was ninth out to a catch at long-on but, by then, he had done his job. No 11 Ishwar Pandey joined in the fun with a couple of big strikes but when Rest were all out 32 minutes after lunch, they had made the most of the surface.