When a bowler returns from surgery and looks to make a comeback to the national team, his opening spell usually indicates his state of mind. S Sreesanth’s initial figures of 4-1-23-0 on a batting beauty may not have been a perfect indication of his bowling. Perhaps, he was too eager for wickets and hence bowled waywardly.
The Kerala pacer was all over the place, giving in-form Wasim Jaffer ample width to command the ball to the pickets. Jaffer was in glorious form, playing with his customary grace. At the other end, Ishwar Pandey gave Rest of India the initial breakthrough by forcing wicketkeeper-bat Aditya Tare to spoon a catch to gully.
Something changed in Sreesanth’s second spell (3-1-6-0 ); his third was even more impressive (2-1-4-1). The change of ends in the third spell — from North Stand to the Garware Pavilion — just did the trick.
The ball swung in late, forcing Jaffer, caught in two minds, to withdraw his bat at the last moment. But the ball brushed the bottom of the bat, en route to Ambati Rayudu’s gloves. Rayudu was keeping wickets as Wriddhiman Saha, hit on his ribs while negotiating Dhaval Kulkarni on Wednesday, couldn’t don the gloves.
Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh may have hoped to induce similar errors. The pitch was oozing runs, and RoI had already posted a mammoth 526.
Skipper Harbhajan, who introduced himself after 25 overs when Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane were in full flow, managed to keep the batsmen quiet for a while even as runs were coming thick and fast from the other end. It was thought that the pitch would assist spinners on the fourth and fifth days. But given the way both Mumbai and RoI bowlers have toiled so far, Bhajji & Co will need something special on Friday.