2017-18 Ranji Trophy: Tamil Nadu give Mumbai's Khadoos army a taste of their own medicine
Five Indian internationals, along with five other men who can get into the Indian team in the near future, playing in the same match with two fierce rivals taking on each other in what was probably the biggest match of this season's Ranji Trophy. Right from a discarded pacer returning to the fold after four years to take his 100th first-class wicket and score a match-saving century to two young prospects going berserk against the best in the World, the match between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu at the Bandra Kurla complex had every bit of drama and action in it.
Unfortunately, the match was not televised or streamed and the fans were left disappointed, which was evident by the reactions of the fans on few social media platforms.
The early onslaught
After choosing to bat first, Mumbai were off to a disastrous start as they lost their opener Akhil Herwadkar for a duck in the second over of the match. It was a perfect return for V Yo Mahesh as he got his 100th first-class wicket in the first over he bowled since the 2012-13 season.
It was then that the prolific Shreyas Iyer joined young prodigy Prithvi Shaw at the crease. The duo played their natural game and took the attack to the Tamil Nadu bowlers, who were sent on a leather hunt for the next hour and a half. Even R Ashwin, who was the number 1 Test bowler in the World not long ago, could not keep them at bay as both the batsmen showed no respect to the international pro and went severely against him.
Both of them registered their individual fifties that came off at a brisk pace and threatened to take the game away from Tamil Nadu in the first session of the match itself. Soon after reaching his fifty, Shreyas was dismissed for a 62-ball 57 off the bowling of one of India's emerging all-rounders, Vijay Shankar.
Prithvi continued his destruction and kept scoring runs in spite of losing Shreyas and Suryakumar Yadav in quick succession. Things looked dim for Abhinav Mukund and co. as Mumbai ended the first session with the scorecard reading 173/3 in 34 overs with Prithvi batting on 76 off 96 balls.
Lunch, day 1: Mumbai 173/3 in 34 overs (Prithvi Shaw 76*, Shreyas Iyer 57)
Coming out to bat in the second session, Prithvi continued from where he left off and helped his team cross the 200-run mark in quick-time and soon after, reached his century, his third in four first-class matches.
He looked set for a big knock and in the meantime, he lost Siddesh Lad for 18 and few overs later, he was caught in the slips off the bowling of R Ashwin for a well-made 123 off 155 balls with the help of 17 fours and two sixes.
At the fall of Prithvi's wicket: Mumbai 245/5 after 53 overs
Crisis men at work
After losing half their side, Mumbai's crisis man Abhishek Nayar walked out and joined his skipper Aditya Tare at the crease. The duo has rescued their team on several occasions and they set out to repeat the same.
They batted cautiously and made sure that the hosts didn't lose any wicket in the session as Mumbai went into the tea break at 262/5 in 66 overs, adding just 17 runs to their total in 13 overs since the dismissal of Prithvi.
Tea, day 1: Mumbai 262/5 after 66 overs (Abhishek Nayar 3* off 39, Tare 21* off 61)
The batting approach of both Tare and Nayar gave Tamil Nadu a slight opening and they kept applying pressure on the batsmen during the third session. Tare took on the bowlers on a few occasions and reached his fifty before throwing away his wicket to Vijay Shankar with just four overs left in the day.
The all-rounder struck again in the last over as he dismissed Vijay Gohil as Mumbai finished the day at 317 for the loss of seven wickets, a below-par score considering the start they got, courtesy Prithvi and Shreyas.
After the dismissal of teenager Prithvi, the 41-time champions managed to score just 69 runs in 36 overs and made sure that the honours were shared on day 1. All hopes were hinged on the shoulders of crisis man Abhishek Nayar.
Stumps, day 1: Mumbai 314/7 in 89.1 overs (Abhishek Nayar 20* off 105 balls)
Unfortunately, Nayar got out early on day 2 and dashed all hopes of taking his team to a good first-innings total. The last two wickets added 52 runs and took their team to 374 before getting dismissed, easily 150 runs short, especially, after scoring 173 in the first session of the match.
End of first innings: Mumbai 374 (Prithvi Shaw 123, Shreyas Iyer 57, Vijay Shankar 4/52)
Down, but 'not' out
On a wicket that had zero assistance for the bowlers, the main objective of Tamil Nadu batsmen, spearheaded by Indian internationals Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, must have been the all-important first-innings lead. They would have known that Mumbai won't go down without a fight and taking the lead will be a big task for them.
Mumbai bowlers' early burst made sure that Tamil Nadu lost the wickets of Abhinav, Vijay and Kaushik Gandhi cheaply and were reduced to 34/3 with Vijay Shankar joining Baba Indrajith at the crease. TN still had a lot of hope as two of their best batsmen were batting with four capable bats waiting for their turn in the pavilion.
Vijay Shankar started off on a great note as he hit four boundaries in quick succession and looked settled at the crease. However, when all his shots started finding the fielders, he danced down the track to clear the boundary just to see himself get stumped by Tare off the bowling of Vijay Gohil for 18.
Washington replaced him and along with Indrajith, the teenager looked to pull things back.
At the fall of Vijay Shankar: TN 69/4 (B Indrajith 17*)
Architect Inder at work
The young duo batted brilliantly and looked threatening at the crease. Both of them were not afraid of playing their shots. Their stand crossed 50 and the batsmen were complementing each other well. Washington was the aggressor as he raced to 31 off just 44 balls at tea while Indrajith started off slowly.
Tea, day 2: TN 126/4 in 40 overs (Indrajith 40*, Washington 31*)
Right-hander Indrajith reached his fifty off 102 balls and stepped on the accelerator. Soon after Washington reached his fifty off 74 balls, Indrajith registered his second century of the season off just 152 balls with the last fifty runs coming at run-a-ball.
When things looked bright for TN, thanks to these two youngsters, Washington got out for 69 with just six overs left in the day. R Ashwin joined Indrajith and the duo saw through the rest of the day without any further hiccups as TN ended day 2 at 239/5 in 65 overs, still trailing their rivals by 135 runs with five wickets in hand.
Stumps, day 2: TN 239/5 in 65 overs (B Indrajith 105*, R Ashwin 8*)
With Ashwin, who is a capable batsman, at the wicket and a well-set Indrajith batting together with the likes of N Jagadeesan and V Yo Mahesh still left to bat, TN would have hoped to take the lead before the start of day three.
But, Dhawal Kulkarni had other ideas as he dismissed R Ashwin in the second over the day with the visitors trailing by 130 runs. N Jagadeesan, who was playing in place of Dinesh Karthik, walked out to bat and looked nervous early on before a six off Vijay Gohil calmed his nerves.
His brief innings of 21 came to an end when he was bowled around the legs off the bowling of Gohil and TN were left reeling at 287/7 in the 78th over. With 87 runs short of Mumbai's total and the last recognized batting pair of Yo Mahesh and Indrajith playing, the contest swung back in favour of the hosts.
Not many knew that Mahesh is a capable batsman as he has scored a lot of runs for his domestic side and even opened for his team in the TNPL. The case was no different with Mumbai as they spread the field to Indrajith and allowed him to take singles. He accepted the invitation with both his hands and reached his 150 off 237 balls. But, his job was not done yet.
TN's 'Khadoos' resistance
When TN were set to take the lead easily, the match swung in favour of Mumbai again as Indrajith was dismissed for 152 with his side needing 36 more runs to take the lead with just two wickets in hand.
In the company of Rahil Shah, Mahesh scored just six runs in the next five overs as TN went in lunch at 345/8 in 103 overs, still 30 short of taking the lead.
Lunch, day 3: Tamil Nadu 345/8 after 103 overs (Rahil Shah 0* off 13 balls, Mahesh 32* off 96 balls)
That's when both the batsmen decided to dig in and take their side to safety. They took a cue from their opposition, Mumbai, known as Khadoos army (Khadoos is Hindi's equivalent to stubborn) in the Indian domestic circuit. Their Khadoos attitude has rescued them from the jaws of defeat on several occasions and this time, Mumbai got the taste of how their opposition felt when they were at the receiving end.
With no telecast on the TV, most of the fans were following the match on BCCI's official website. For a brief period after lunch, the number of balls faced column and the overs column kept changing but the runs column remained unchanged.
Akash Parkar, Vijay Gohil and Dhawal Kulkarni bowled hostile spells that saw TN score just four runs in the first nine overs after lunch. The pressure was released when Mahesh hit a flurry of boundaries and got the deficit down to single digits. A boundary off Rahil's edge followed by a six off Mahesh's bat not only got him his fifty but also gave his team the crucial first-innings lead.
Once three points were in the bag, Mahesh cut loose and took on the bowlers. TN reached the 400-run mark before the 215-ball partnership between Rahil and Mahesh, that saw the duo add 72 runs and put their team in a comfortable position, came to an end as Rahil perished for 17 runs off 104 balls. The resistance showed by both Rahil and Mahesh was simply outstanding and they dodged several bullets fired by the Mumbai pacers.
Mahesh continued his onslaught and reached his maiden first-class ton off 213 balls and made his return a fairy-tale one. TN were eventually dismissed for 450, with a first-innings lead of 76.
End of Tamil Nadu's innings and Tea, day 3: TN 450 (B Indrajith 152, V Yo Mahesh 103*, Vijay Gohil 4/129)
It ain't over till it's over
Trailing by 76, Mumbai were off to a disastrous start as they lost Prithvi Shaw in the third over of the innings. Shreyas Iyer walked out and went all guns blazing, taking on the TN bowlers right from ball one.
He showed no respite to the bowlers as he kept dispatching them to the boundary. One of his sixes off Vijay Shankar broke a window pane and the ball disappeared. In the same over, he reached his fifty with a six off just 43 balls.
Mumbai negated the deficit and ended day three at 85/1 with Shreyas looking good on 56.
Stumps, day 3: Mumbai 85/1 (Shreyas Iyer 56*, Akhil Herwadkar 24*)
Shreyas continued from where he left off on the previous day and started attacking from the word go on day 4. He reached his century off 100 balls in no time and looked good for some more runs.
He smashed every single ball that came his way and raced to 137 off 123 balls before he was run out trying to take a risky second run. His knock of 138 off 124 balls with 11 fours and 9 sixes injected life into the match. At the time of his dismissal, Mumbai were leading by 117 runs.
At the fall of Shreyas Iyer's wicket: Mumbai 193/2 in 44.2 overs (Akhil Herwadkar 45*)
While Shreyas putting on a one-man show at one end, his partner Herwadkar played a patient innings and complemented the aggressor well. The opener scored a century before getting out for 132 off 245 balls.
Eventually, Mumbai declared their innings at 371/5 and set TN a target of 296 in just 15 overs. However, the captains then decided to shake hands and call it a draw.
With nothing to lose, the hosts could have set their opponents a tempting target and gone for the kill but they decided to bat through the day and settled for just one point while Tamil Nadu will enjoy a happy journey back south as they pocketed three points from the match.
Just like their previous encounters, both the teams gave everything and put on a splendid show throughout the match. Prithvi's elegance on day one, TN coming back after conceding 173 in the first session of the match, scoring 381 runs after being down at 69/4 in the first innings, the brief passage of play after lunch on day 3, Iyer's one-man show, this match had everything that is required to make a four-day game a blockbuster.
Had Mumbai declared earlier, who knows, there could have been much more drama. At the end of the day, Tamil Nadu would be the happier side as they not only pocked the crucial three points but also gave the 'Khadoos army' Mumbai a taste of their own medicine.