Young Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur produced an incisive four-wicket haul after the home team's tail wagged merrily to put the defending champions in total command of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Maharshtra in Mumbai on Thursday.
Thakur bent his back on the bouncy Wankhede wicket and produced fiery spells, backed up by a very attacking umbrella field behind the wicket on both sides, to shake up the Maharashtra batting line up after Mumbai ran up a huge first innings total of 402.
Thakur, who went into his sixth game of the season with 21 wickets under his belt, ended the day with highly impressive figures of 4 for 62 that shook up Maharashtra who were reduced to 24 for 3 before recovering to 219 for 7 at stumps on day two of the five-day game. The visitors' score was mainly built around the 115-run fourth wicket partnership in 146 balls between top-scorer Ankit Bawne (84) and Kedar Jadhav (51) whose dismissals within the space of half an hour post tea added further trouble for Maharashtra.
The batsmen holding fort at close of play were Shrikant Mundhe (14) and Akshay Darekar (16). Maharashtra were facing an uphill task as they were 183 runs behind the home team, with little batting left to come on Friday. The 22-year-old Thakur, in only his second season for the 40-time champions, packed off openers Harshad Khadiwale and rival captain Rohit Motwani cheaply in the first spell of four overs to push Maharashtra on the backfoot very early.
Motwani was leg before to an inswinging full toss in the bowler's first over and then he had Khadiwale, the tournament's highest scorer with 930 runs in eight games in the league phase, caught at gully. Thakur then came back after tea to grab two more wickets in his third spell, including that of top-scorer Bawne, who was lucky to survive a chance in the slip cordon off his bowling on 5 and then got another reprieve after he was bowled off a no-ball by the same bowler. Its his third haul of four wickets in only his 11th first class game.
In between these wickets, Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan took the very important wicket of Under-19 Asia Cup winning captain Vijay Zol, who looked pretty confident, and left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar sent back Jadhav, caught bat-pad behind by wicketkeeper Aditya Tare. Zol's departure put Maharashtra in deep rut before Jadhav, playing cautiously, and the more attacking Bawne produced a partnership that stemmed the rot and took the score to 139 when the former got out.
Jadhav batted for 108 minutes and hit 9 fours in his 66-ball knock. Then Bawne, despite two lucky breaks earlier in his innings, needlessly tried to cut a rising ball going well over his head from Thakur to be caught behind. He faced 113 balls in his 130-minute essay and struck 12 fours and a six. The departure of these two set batsmen within the space of 44 balls left Maharashtra struggling at 170 for 6. Later Javed Khan, the third seam bowler in the Mumbai attack, sent back Chirag Khurana for his first wicket with the visitors total nine short of 200.
Then Mundhe and Darekar stayed put till close to carry on the fight on Friday. In the morning, overnight unbeaten batsmen Iqbal Abdulla (49 not out) and Zaheer Khan (39) kept Maharashtra on the field for the entire first session after Mumbai resumed at 306 for 7. The eighth wicket duo added 62 runs in quick time, with Zaheer slamming off-spinner Khurana for 14 runs in one over with one six and two fours. Zaheer was finally out edging Shrikant Munde to the slip cordon after striking four fours and one six in 61 balls. Then Abdulla ran out of partners to remain unconquered one short of 50 after having faced 107 balls in his three-hour innings when Mumbai's first innings came to an end at the stroke of lunch. Mumbai's last three wickets added 102 runs. Samad Fallah was the most successful bowler for Maharashtra with figures of 4 for 103 while Anupam Sanklecha (3 for 77), Mundhe (2 for 85) and Darekar (1 for 60) shared the other wickets.
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