Stumps Baroda 63 for 1 (Solanki 32*) trail Mumbai 171 (Tare 50, Iyer 28, Sheth 5-50, Meriwala 5-52) by 108 runs
Before Thursday, Baroda quicks Atit Sheth and Lukman Meriwala had first-class experience worth nine matches between them. Inside two sessions of the most successful Ranji Trophy side’s 500th match, the duo had all of Mumbai’s line-up. Playing party-poopers on an evenly-grassed Wankhede pitch, they bagged five wickets each to skittle the hosts out for 171.
Spanning four spells of two each in as many sessions, 21-year-old Sheth’s artistry with the ball was a study in deception. Only into the fifth ball of the game, the right-arm swing-bowling allrounder played killjoy to birthday boy Prithvi Shaw with a back-of-a-length nip-backer that flattened Shaw’s middle stump after penetrating an expansive front-foot cover drive. In his next over, Sheth fired a fullish ball that elicited a healthy edge – and a second Mumbai duck within five deliveries – as Ajinkya Rahane tried to drive on his knees, only to send the ball into Deepak Hooda’s reverse-cupped palms.
Until the 12th over, all threats to Mumbai came wrapped in the right-arm pacers of Sheth and Sagar Mangalorkar. Then Meriwala – whose two first-class appearances had fetched him cumulative figures 2 for 135 in three innings – steamed in. His second delivery forced Shreyas Iyer to waft with a near-horizontal bat but was met with caution for the remainder of the over. Iyer could, however, extend his stay only to a tentative 47-ball 28, before Meriwala got him to angle a flat-batted shot towards second-slip with a short and wide delivery. A safely-pouched nick off Suryakumar Yadav reduced Mumbai to 82 for 4 before Seth took center stage again.
Mumbai captain Aditya Tare, who promoted himself to the opening slot on account of Akhil Herwadkar being dropped to accommodate Iyer, brought the team fifty up with a square cut off Sheth off the fifth ball of the 14th over – a shot that best bore testimony to the abandon that marked his eight fours in his 82-ball 50. Dropped on 5 by the wicketkeeper Mitesh Patel , and then on 40 by debutant Ahmadnoor Pathan off Abhijit Karambelkar, he reaped back-to-back fours off cuts that pierced short point and gully – the first with immaculate precision, the second a thick edge flying past a diving gully, immediately after the reprieve.
Into only his second first-class game, Patel’s inexperience at the level became more conspicuous when he grassed a sitter – a thick edge off Lad – in the last over of the first session, robbing Baroda of the opportunity to reduce Mumbai to 103 for 6. The reprieve presented Lad the perfect opportunity to live up to his “crisis man” reputation in veteran allrounder Abhishek Nayar’s company, but indiscretion – compounded by the pace attack’s discipline – further abetted Mumbai’s undoing.
In the seventh over after lunch, Nayar, for all his five-time Ranji Trophy winning experience, couldn’t resist throwing his arms at a seventh-stump-line outswinger and ended up offering a gift to the keeper. Within the space of seven balls, Patel then atoned for his prior scratchy glovework by snaffling a blinder as Meriwala angled one into Lad from around the wicket and had him prod at the away-moving good-length delivery. A low, full-length stretch and Patel’s one-handed grab had Mumbai’s tail exposed. The lower order, however, added 54 of Mumbai’s tally of 171, with Dhawal Kulkarni and Vijay Gohil putting on a 40-run ninth wicket stand. The duo, however, fell within the space of three balls as Sheth and Meriwala crowned their swing-bowling offensive with well-deserved five-wicket hauls.
Much of Mumbai’s efforts with the ball revolved around a cautious approach from the Baroda openers Aditya Waghmode and Pathan, who saw off the new ball, adding 25 for the opening stand. Mumbai’s three slips and a gully had little involvement in the proceedings until Waghmode edged a Royston Dias outswinger, only to be dropped by Iyer at third slip. Two overs later, having already sent down two maidens, the left-arm quick stole a feather from Pathan’s attempted front-foot defence. Vishnu Solanki clobbered a brisk 32 despite the disciplined line from the Mumbai quick bowlers who sent down 26 overs between them
On a day built around elaborate merriments, the caught-behind was the only instance when Dias and Mumbai could afford to let out a celebratory holler as Baroda finished on 63 for 1 at stumps.