New Delhi: There was plenty of sunshine and a pristine, dry outfield. But for the second day in succession no play was possible in the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Services and Mumbai at the Palam ‘A’ Ground on Saturday.
It was a sorry reflection of the state of affairs at the ill-prepared venue, for although the sun beat down mercilessly all day the groundstaff were unable to ready the wet pitch for action. After an endless wait and several inspections the umpires decided to terminate proceedings at around 3.45 p.m.
Rain plays spoilsport on Day 3
Day 2: Mumbai fight back
Day 1: Services stretch Mumbai
The damage was done on Thursday night when a raging hailstorm blew off the covers, exposing the square to the mercy of the elements for at least a few hours. The track spent all of rain-ravaged Friday, the third day, sweating under three layers of tarpaulin, but by then moisture had penetrated deep into the surface – a situation that saw no redress despite the best efforts of those involved.
The Mumbai team arrived in batches all through the afternoon and proceeded to kill time by stretching and playing football on the turf, which was dry and fit for play. But the damp pitch threw a spanner in the works of the visiting team.
Mumbai are on 380/6 and despite the provision of a sixth day, they will need all the time they can get to demolish Services and gain the first innings lead.
The 39-time champions would be hoping for uninterrupted sessions on Sunday and – if needed – Monday to conclude their first innings and then dismiss Services. If Services somehow manage to hang in there and are not dismissed within the stipulated time, the match will be decided by the spin of coin, provided the home outfit haven’t taken the lead themselves – although that borders on the impossible.
Which is why Mumbai’s frustration at having to wait aimlessly by the sidelines despite a blazing sun was understandable.
Services would not be complaining. They have had an unprecedented season and would rather have the 50-50 chance of making their first Ranji final in over 50 years by a coin toss, than the slim opportunity of qualification through first innings lead.
When asked if he was pleased with the arrangements at the ground, Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni said, “You are the best judge of that. The groundstaff and the match referee tried their best with whatever facilities they had at their disposal. This happens a lot of times in our First Class cricket."
On what strategy his team would adopt in the game remaining, he said, “We still have a potential 196 overs left. A lot will depend on when the match begins tomorrow and the kind of weather we have. We will tweak our strategy accordingly.”
The Score (fourth day): Mumbai 380 for 6 in 143 overs (Ajit Agarkar batting 113, Aditya Tare 108 batting).