Never mind their standing on the table, Mumbai have featured in the most gripping matches this Ranji season. Look no further than their recent encounters against Punjab and Bengal. Now, it was Madhya Pradesh’s turn to give the 39-time Ranji champs several heart-in-the-mouth moments. Chasing 311, Madhya Pradesh were 90 without loss before losing their way.
India’s ageing warhorse Zaheer Khan — he had bowled 13 overs unchanged — imposed himself on the contest with a five-for, reducing MP to 267 for nine from 193 for four at one stage. Madhya Pradesh’s last pair had to get 44 in 7.3 overs; nobody would have given them a whiff of a chance. However, Iqbal Abdulla dropped Ishwar Pandey, much to the chagrin of the bowler (Abhishek Nayar).
The last 20 minutes was the most riveting part of the day. Needing 20 in the final four overs, Pandey carted Nayar over long-off for a six and repeated the shot two balls later. As if consumed by a neurotic rush, he chanced his arm again and holed out to extra over. Nayar went down on his knees and spread out his arms in ecstasy.
Although the highlight of the final day was a sparkling 128 by MP opener Jalaj Saxena, it was Nayar who landed the most crucial blows. He ran out a well-set Saxena before snaring three crucial lower-order wickets (including that of Pandey). Desperate to win outright, Mumbai were probably more eager for a win.
Mumbai 1st innings: 304
Madhya Pradesh 1st innings: 244
Mumbai 2nd innings (O/N: 192/5): A Nayar not out 62, A Chavan not out 22 Extras: (LB2, W1, NB4) 7
Total: (5 wickets dec; 73 overs) 250
Bowling: I Pandey 27-6-91-2, A Rajan 18-7-66-0 (NB4, W1), A Singh 18-5-59-2, A Sharma 1-0-11-0, H Singh 6-0-15-1, JS Saxena 3-0-6-0
Madhya Pradesh 2nd innings: N Ojha c Yadav b Abdulla 27, J Saxena run out (Nayar) 128, A Sharma c Abdulla b Khan 30, U Birla c Jaffer b Khan 3, D Bundela c Tare b Khan 5, H Singh c Tare b Nayar 38, S Choudhary lbw b Nayar 5, R Bakshi c Tare b Khan 2, A Rajan lbw b Khan 0, A Singh not out 18, I Pandey c sub b Nayar 24
Extras: (B6, LB8, W3, NB6) 23
Total: (all out; 74.5 overs) 303
FoW: 1-90, 2-175, 3-185, 4-193, 5-233, 6-242, 7-244, 8-252, 9-267, 10-303
Bowling: Z Khan 19-2-79-5 (NB1), A Agarkar 14-3-56-0 (NB1), A Nayar 15.5-0-56-3 (W3), J Khan 6-0-36-0, I Abdulla 14-0-46-1, A Chavan 6-0-16-0
Mumbai’s close wins
Bombay beat Northern India in Delhi by 12 runs in Mar 1936
Mumbai beat Rajasthan in Jhalwar by 2 runs in 2007/08
Mumbai beat Karnataka in Mysore by 6 runs in 2009/10
Mumbai beat MP in Indore by 7 runs in 2012/13