Hard-hitting batsman Saurabh Tiwary (in pic) rescued Jharkhand with a blistering, career-best 175 not out as holders Mumbai lost the plot and allowed the visitors to escape to 262 for 8 on day one of their four-day Ranji Trophy Group A fixture in Mumbai on Friday.
Tiwary slammed eight cleanly-hit sixes and struck 15 fours to send the Mumbai bowling attack scurrying for cover as the hosts, after asking Jharkhand to bat first on a Wankhede Stadium wicket having good bounce, had taken the upper hand before tea by reducing the visitors to 180 for 8. The 23-year-old Jamshedpur-born left hander, who came in when his side was tottering at 13 for 2 in the 7th over, took the Mumbai attack by the scruff of its neck in his 304-minute knock in which he faced 212 balls.
By the end of the day the home team was clueless on how to stop him or break his 82-run 9th wicket partnership with tailender Shiv Shankar Rao (5 not out in 123 minutes). Tiwary struck beautifully as Mumbai went on the defensive by posting all the fielders on the boundary line.
Tiwary, who notched up his first ton of the season which bettered his previous career-best of 169, raced to his century with a single in 144 balls with 13 fours and three sixes. He then went on a six-hitting spree by carting the bowlers mainly over the leg side when they tried to bounce him out. The tall batsman, who has played for Mumbai Indians in IPL and knows Wankhede ground well, registered his tenth first class hundred after all the other top order batsmen found the going tough against the Mumbai pace and spin attack.
Medium pacer Javed Khan was the most successful bowler with 4 for 61, including the wickets of both openers Bhavin Thakker and Rameez Nemat which he secured cheaply. Fellow medium pacer Shardul Thakur and left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar bagged two wickets apiece.
Mumbai were on top in the first session though Tiwary was already in his elements driving and flicking the bowling around to be unbeaten on 54 in a team score of 100 for 4 in 34 overs.
Dabholkar and Thakur sent back Bhavik and Ishant Jaggi respectively. Though Tiwary completed his century and was unbeaten on 114 in a team score of 195 for 8, the reigning champions had things well under control at this stage.
However, Mumbai's strategy was strange after tea. Instead of attacking from both ends, they targeted Rao without success as Tiwary invariably took a single off the 4th or 5th balls and the tailender stayed put. The hosts summoned the new ball at 240 for 8 when it was due, but failed to break the 9th wicket stand. Tiwary, who was fed repeatedly on the legs or was given short balls to hit for fours and sixes often, and Rao added runs at a fast clip and at stumps the hosts were at their wits' end.
Jharkhand coach Subroto Banerjee praised young Tiwary, saying he has been the lone in-form batsman for them this season.
"He is in supreme form in this season. Already he has got nearly 700 runs in five matches. He got two 90s and this 175. He is scoring heavily. He missed three hundreds, because the batting is collapsing and he is the only one and at the end he is trying to get some runs," Banerjee told reporters after the play. He also praised the number 10 batsman Rao for playing a supporting role. "SS Rao is a character. They didn't take singles that is why they are batting till now. You give him two overs. I am not saying he will get out but there are chances." The former India fast bowler hit out at his batsmen and said they need to start performing better. "The batters should have got more runs but that is not in our hands. They have to pull their socks. (For) one player batting looked so easy. It is a good batting track. The ball will travel a bit as always in Wankhede but at the same time it is a good batting track," Banerjee said.
Khan, Mumbai's most successful bowler of the day, defended his team's strange tactics and said Tiwary was batting well and shielding the tail-ender, which made it difficult to get wickets. "They batted very well. Saurabh Tiwary faced 4 balls and was giving the strike to the other player for the last two balls. He batted well, because of that we had trouble taking wickets," he said.
Asked about the defensive field set for Tiwary when the opposition had lost eight wickets, Khan said, "he was playing strokes, so we wanted him to take the single and counter attack the other player. We were focusing on that plan. He was playing in a flow and his strokes were coming." The medium pacer said the team missed the services of senior India bowler Zaheer Khan, who is in South Africa on national duty. "We missed him. Obviously he is a good bowler and when he is in the team the atmosphere is completely different."
Brief scores: Jharkhand 262 for 8 (Bhavik Thakar 28, Saurabh Tiwary batting 175, S S Rao batting 5; Javed Khan 4 for 61) v Mumbai.