Two years ago when Hiken Shah returned to Mumbai after playing for Jammu and Kashmir, his aim was to find a place in the side that has won the Ranji Trophy 39 times. Once he made a comeback to the Mumbai team, there was no looking back.
On Monday, when Mumbai were in trouble, Shah was the batsman his teammates looked up to. After scoring back-to-back centuries — 140 vs Rajasthan and 156 vs Hyderabad — in the first two Ranji Trophy games, Shah notched up yet another hundred (118) to give his side a respectable second innings total and helped his team set Bengal a target of 391 on Day Three of their Group A match at Brabourne Stadium.
Resuming at six for no loss, Mumbai declared their second innings at 294 for five after taking an overall lead of 390. The visitors were 47 without loss at stumps, needing another 344 on the final day on Tuesday.
Coming at No 3 after promising speedster Shami Ahmed dismissed Wasim Jaffer for 19, Shah took the onus on him to take Mumbai to safety. He saw opener Kaustubh Pawar fall for 31 and captain Rohit Sharma for 14 but found an able ally in Abhishek Nayar. The two left-handed batsmen kept the scoreboard ticking with singles and boundaries at regular intervals.
Shah’s batting may not have been attractive but it was effective. He kept the Bengal fielders on their feet by finding gaps with crisp drives on either side of the pitch. He used his feet well against the spinners and also employed the odd reverse sweep to negate the spin.
There was no end to Shah’s joy once he reached his third century of the season, a reverse sweep off Abhishek Jhunjhunwala was followed by a punch as he leapt in the air. After Shah fell, Nayar continued in his usual style, remaining unbeaten on 73 to go with his first innings score of 62.
Mumbai 1st innings 297
Bengal 1st innings 201
Mumbai 2nd innings (O/N: 6/0): W Jaffer b Shami Ahmed 19, K Pawar c Tiwary b Jhunjhunwala 31, H Shah c Das b Shami Ahmed 118, R Sharma b Shukla 14, A Nayar not out 73, AP Tare b VP Singh 19
Extras: (B11, LB7, W1, NB1) 20
Total: (5 wkts dec; 74.4 overs) 294
FoW: 1-32, 2-72, 3-113, 4-271, 5-294
Bowling: VP Singh 14.4-0-82-1 (1NB, 1W), LR Shukla 15-6-30-1, I Saxena 12-2-33-0, Shami Ahmed 19-5-39-2, A Jhunjhunwala 14-0-92-1
Bengal 2nd innings (target: 391): RB Banerjee batting 23, Arindam Das batting 19
Extras: (B4, NB1) 5
Total: (0 wickets; 16 overs) 47
Bowling: D Kulkarni 4-2-9-0, A Salvi 4-1-17-0, R Powar 4-0-13-0 (1NB), K Waingankar 2-2-0-0, A Chavan 2-0-4-0