Seasoned opener Wasim Jaffer cracked his 50th century in first class cricket to rally champions Mumbai from a difficult situation on day one of their Ranji Trophy Group A clash against fellow-state rivals Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. (Read: The joy of playing helps Wasim Jaffer excel consistently)
Jaffer remained unbeaten on 133 at stumps after batting right through the day and guiding the 40-time champions from a precarious 39 for 3 to a close of play first innings total of 254 for 8. With his 50th first-class hundred, Jaffer joined an elite list of seven other Indian cricketers - Sachin Tendulkar (81), Sunil Gavaskar (81), Rahul Dravid (68), Dilip Vengsarkar (55), VVS Laxman (55) and Mohammad Azharuddin (54) - who have 50-plus hundreds at this level.
The 35-year-old former India batsman showed immense patience and tenacity even as wickets fell from the other end. But for his 393-minute vigil, the hosts, who were asked to take first strike, would have folded up for a meager score.
There were only two significant partnerships for Mumbai, who were rocked by the initial three-wicket burst by medium pacer Sandeep Singh whose victims included South Africa-bound Ajinkya Rahane who was caught in the slip cordon for one run.
Jaffer, who faced 261 balls and struck 13 fours and a six to remain unconquered with tailender Vishal Dabholkar (0), put on 64 runs for the fourth wicket in 98 balls with Abhishek Nayar (27) before the latter was bowled round his legs by off spinner Akshay Wakhre who grabbed 2 for 65.
Later the opener added 58 in 111 balls with Shardul Thakur (26) who was one of three victims snapped up by Rajasthan-born Vidarbha left arm spinner Ravi Jangid.
It was Jaffer's 34th hundred in Ranji Trophy and his tally of 50 hundreds in first class cricket includes five in Tests.
Vidarbha opted for the second new ball towards close after 87 overs but neither South Africa-bound Umesh Yadav, who went wicketless after six spells, nor Sandeep Singh could break through the ninth wicket stand which was worth 27 runs.
Yadav bowled six overs in his first spell and then was used in short bursts of three overs without success and the best bowler on view on a wicket that offered some bounce and movement was 32-year-old Sandeep who finished with 3 for 29.
Speaking to the reporters after the end of the day's play, Jaffer said his team has recovered well now in a good position to call the shots.
"We are in a good position though we would have liked it to be something like 270-6. It was a good recovery," he said.
Satisfied with his day's rescue work, Jaffer said the team's batsmen knew that the first session would be a tricky one with the ball seaming around a bit.
"It feels good to score a century. Someone had to stand there and make runs. Happy to have compiled my 50th first class hundred. The first session was very trying. We needed to hang around. There was not a big partnership at all but at the end of the day we are happy.
"They bowled well in the first session and the ball was seaming around and it was a very criticial period. We knew once we played out the first session the wicket will ease out.
"A few bad shots were played, but they will learn with time. The wicket was not doing much after the first session and at end of the day we have recovered well," he emphasised.
Asked about whether Umesh Yadav's pace has fallen a bit after his comeback from a serious back injury, Jaffer said it was the first time he had faced him and cannot make a comparison.
"He bowled all right. I have not played him before today and cannot compare," he said.
"Sandeep bowled all right. He does not have pace but swings the ball and bowls to his strength," he noted about Vidarbha's most impressive bowler of the day.
Brief Scores: Mumbai 254 for 8 (Wasim Jaffer 133 not out; V Dabholkar 0 not out; Sandeep Singh 3 for 29, Ravi Jangid 3 for 48).