The absence of star batsmen Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, and the retirement of Ajit Agarkar has pinched Mumbai batting hard. On Friday, the young and inexperienced batting line-up were put to test on a grassy pitch by the Maharashtra medium-pace trio of Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha and Shrikant Mundhe who spat fire bundling out Mumbai for a mere 129 in their second innings.
Mumbai escaped the embarrassment of being folded up for a two-digit score, thanks to 33 crucial runs by first innings bowling hero Shardul Thakur. Giving Mumbai some cushion was their 122-run first innings lead that helped the hosts set Maharashtra a target of 252 in trying circumstances.
With two full days remaining, the Group C toppers Maharashtra have to bat sensibly as they still need 224 with nine wickets in hand. This, after Maharashtra finished an absorbing third day at 28/1, Zaheer Khan inducing Chirag Khurana to edge to Wasim Jaffer at second slip.
All eyes will be on Zaheer on Saturday, how he and his speedsters Thakur, Javed Khan and Abhishek Nayar rise to the challenge and make the Maharashtra run chase difficult.
When play resumed on Friday with Maharashtra trailing by 183 in their first innings, Mumbai bowlers failed to exploit the morning conditions until the second new ball was taken.
However, once captain Zaheer took the second new ball, Thakur polished off the tail, taking two of the three wickets to end with career best six for 86, his maiden five-wicket bag in first class cricket.
Mumbai’s second innings was all about their inexperience being exposed by brilliant bowling.
Fallah, Sanklecha and Mundhe made use of the bounce that the Wankhede strip offered for the third straight day that saw 14 wickets fall, all to seamers. Maharashtra operated with only Fallah (3/45), Sanklecha (4/57) and Mundhe (3/26) and they were assisted by exceptional slip catching.
Mumbai collapse began with their most accomplished Wasim Jaffer edgeing Sanklecha low to Khurana at second slip for a third ball duck. Sanklecha and Fallah repeatedly struck to reduce the hosts to 29 for five. When Fallah took a break after eight overs in his first spell, Mundhe continued to make life difficult for Mumbai lower order.