Ajit Agarkar plays a shot against Services during the Ranji Trophy semi-final at Palam ground in New Delhi. Agarkar made 145
There is very little going for a contest by way of interest if about 240 overs have been lost due to rain and poor playing conditions. And if the clash happens to be a Ranji Trophy semi-final, the feeling of loss can be even greater, especially if one team is eyeing its 40th title while the other team has punched way above its weight to find themselves in the current situation.
It may still be early days, but it would be quite tragic if the Mumbai-Services game, being played at the Palam Cricket Ground, has to be decided through the spin of a coin on the sixth day of the clash today.
The hosts had fought their way to 164-3 after Mumbai had declared their first innings at 454-8 after yet another delayed start. Services still trail the visitors by a huge 290 runs, but the way stand-in skipper Soumya Swain (64 runs, 122b, 7x4) and the experienced Yashpal Singh (43 runs, 69b, 6x4) batted after they were three wickets down with 72 on the board, raises sufficient hope of a remarkable fightback.
And what’s more, Swain & Co will take heart from the fact that even if they are not able to overtake Mumbai’s total at close on Monday, but still have wickets intact, they could still make it to the final against Saurashtra through toss. The other factor that could help them is that it’s highly unlikely that the game will get off to a 9:15 am start, thanks to the fog and mist.
The onus of turning the game around therefore, lies entirely on Ajit Agarkar’s men. Swain, meanwhile, seems to have taken off from where their injured captain Soumik Chatterjee left in the quarter-finals against Uttar Pradesh. The left-hander, who is a trained soldier, showed commendable poise in tackling the Mumbai attack after he came in to bat at the fall of opener Pratik Desai.
He guarded his wicket doggedly, ensuring he didn’t give the opposition a whiff of a chance to get the better of him. At the same time, he made sure he was scoring off the lose deliveries. Swain’s defiance could not have come at a better time, given that he’s struggled to get going throughout the season.
Baring the unbeaten 118 he scored against Himachal Pradesh in November, he’s not had any other innings of note. He has already put on 92 runs with Yashpal, and Services’ progress on Monday will depend largely on this pair and the performance of inform batsman Rajat Paliwal.
Sunday’s game could get off to a start only at 12:10 pm after the entire morning session was wiped out as the pitch that was badly damaged after heavy showers on Thursday and Friday was declared fit for play only a few minutes earlier by the two umpires. Agarkar chose to go in for a few quick runs and succeeded in taking his team to 454-8 from the 380-6 they had been stranded on since Thursday.
He managed to reach 145 before he was out to spinner Avishek Sinha, caught at mid wicket by substitute fielder Mohammad Khaled. The other centurion, Aditya Tare, was out for 120. Medium pacer Shadab Nazar was the most successful of the Services bowlers taking 3-142 in 44 overs.
Mumbai I innings: W Jaffer ct S Lalotra b N Singh 15, K Pawar lbw b S Yadav 3, H Shah ct wk S Lalotra b S Yadav 0, S Tendulkar ct N Verma b A Sinha 56, A Nayar ct S Yadav b S Nazar 70, A Tare ct S Lalotra b S Nazar 120, A Chavan b S Nazar 0, A Agarkar ct (sub) K Muzzaffaruddi b A Sinha 145, D Kulkarni (not out), 20, S Thakur (not out) 10.
Extras (1 wd 6 b 4 lb) 11.
Total (for 8 in 52 overs) 454.
Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-19, 3-23, 4-104, 5- 169, 6-169, 7-415, 8-435.
Bowling: S Yadav 24-9-49-2, N Singh 32-6- 89-1, S Nazar 44-11-142-3, A Sinha 32-8- 98-2, Y Singh 5-0-23-0, N Verma 9-1-33-0, P Desai 5-2-6-0, R Paliwal 1-0-4-0.
Services I innings:NVerma lbw b D Kulkarni 13, P Desai b A Chavan 4, A Gupta ct K Pawar bS Thakur 31, S Swain (batting) 64, Y Singh (batting) 32.
Extras (1wd, 4b, 2lb) 7.
Total (for 3 wkts in 57 overs) 164.
Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-22, 3-72.
Bowling: A Agarkar 8-3-29-0, D Kulkarni 11- 4-18-1, V Dabholkar 11-1-33-0, A Chavan 12- 4-33-1, S Thakur 11-0-35-1, A Nayar 4-0- 10-0.