A fit Zaheer Khan on the last day was Mumbai’s only hope of eking out a result against Railways. Zaheer was seen, alright, but only outside the ropes doing his sprints. He arrived on the field at lunch sporting his practice jersey. Soon, the National Cricket Academy’s physio Ashish Kaushik, Mumbai Cricket Academy’s physio Niranjan Pandit and the association’s trainer Amogh Pandit joined Zaheer to oversee his bowling drills.
He had to clear the fitness test to be eligible for Test selection against England, which he sure enough did. The Ranji tie had already been reduced to an academic interest. Krishnakant Upadhyay struck some meaty blows off Dhawal Kulkarni as Railways averted the follow-on.
The proceedings now became a crawl. One of those typical inconsequential last days in Ranji Trophy. Kaustubh Pawar got himself some runs, a steady 85, although he would have been better off sharpening his catching skills at slip. He missed quite a few in this game. Ajinkya Rahane squandered a chance to record a second hundred here to further buff his domestic record. Rohit Sharma perished to a soft dismissal. Or should we say there was nothing to push him? A batting legend, meanwhile, enjoyed a well-deserved rest as Mumbai ended at 230 for five before both the skippers decided they had enough.
Should Mumbai be merely content pocketing three points? This was their best attack, at least on paper. An outright win wasn’t an unrealistic expectation. But they struggled to dismiss Railways in the first innings. Dhawal Kulkarni looked the sharpest of the quicks but bereft of luck. Skipper Agarkar was, at best, steady. And Mumbai perhaps never had a fully fit Zaheer.
Agarkar and Sanjay Bangar also agreed that the Wankhede deck was inert. But the surface at Jaipur, where Mumbai will play Rajasthan on November 9, may not be any better.
It’s just the start of the season, and thus it would be unfair to overanalyse the spinners. Bangar repeatedly stepped out to Ramesh Powar, never allowing him to settle into a length. The Railways skipper said that Powar was hitting the rough and attack was the only way to counter him. Iqbal Abdullah didn’t look the part. The form of their batsmen, however, should give the team management a lot of cheer.
Mumbai 1st innings: 570
Railways 1st innings (O/N: 380/8): K Upadhyay c Tare b Kulkarni 45, A Singh not out 30, H Rathod c Tare b Kulkarni 0; Extras: (B8, LB6, NB3): 17; Total: (all out, 126.4 overs) 426; FoW: 9/422 (Upadhyay), 10/426 (Rathod); Bowling: Z Khan 20.5-5-41-1, D Kulkarni 25.4-8-59-2, A Agarkar 14-3-43-3 (1NB), R Powar 27-4-129-1 (2NB), I Abdulla 23-3-82-2, A Nayar 14.1-1-55-1, R Sharma 2-1-3-0
Mumbai 2nd innings
K Pawar c Paunikar b Ashish Yadav 85, A Tare c & b Ashish Yadav 26, A Rahane c Rathod b Shukla 84, R Sharma c sub (Avinash Yadav) b Rathod 20, A Nayar b Ashish Yadav 0, Iqbal Abdulla not out 0, D Kulkarni not out 12; Extras: (LB1, W1, NB1) 3; Total: (5 wickets; 64 overs) 230; FoW: 1-61 (Tare), 2-186 (Rahane), 3-198 (Pawar), 4-198 (Nayar), 5-218 (Sharma); Bowling: H Rathod 11-2-43-1, A Singh 3-0-17-0 (1nb), A Yadav 27-5-92-3, S Bangar 7-2-10-0, K Upadhyay 7-1-21-0 (1w), S Shukla 9-1-46-1