Who would’ve imagined Mumbai qualifying for the next round of this year’s Ranji Trophy after failing to register a single outright win before their penultimate game against Madhya Pradesh? But a victory in that game changed it all for the 39-time champions, and on the last day of their ninth round encounter against Gujarat, the hosts completed the formalities and sailed through to the quarters after the match ended in a draw.
Chasing 135 in 41 overs after Gujarat were bowled out for 337, Mumbai, rather inexplicably, decided down the shutters. They ended at 65 for one in 27 overs, Hiken Shah making 42 off 52 balls.
“If we would’ve won outright and become the Ranji champions, we would’ve gone for it,” said coach Sulakshan Kulkarni. “But we wanted to qualify and we did that. It doesn’t matter if we are second or third in the group as there are going to be fresh draws for the quarterfinals.”
Earlier, Abhishek Nayar led Mumbai in Wasim Jaffer’s absence (his father suffered a heart attack). It was a sedate start by the two overnight Gujarat batsmen, Manpreet Juneja and debutant Chirag Gandhi, as they added only 12 runs in the first 10 overs of the day. But they shifted gears and wiped off the deficit of 203 at drinks in the first session.
Gandhi in particular played some exquisite drives to bring up his half century. Just as he looked set for a long haul, an incoming delivery from Nayar with the second new ball rapped him plumb in front and he departed for a well-made 64, including 13 boundaries.
Juneja, who’s scored three centuries this season, looked good for the fourth. But on 98, he tried to loft Ankit Chavan over covers, only to find Nayar’s far-reaching arms. Mumbai’s inability to hold on to catches (they dropped as many as three) and a quickfire 43 from No 9 Rush Kalaria stretched the visitors’ lead past 100, but Dhaval Kulkarni killed the threat of a scare by dismissing Kalaria.