New Delhi: As comprehensively as the first day of the second Ranji Trophy semifinal had belonged to Services, the second was owned by Mumbai. The 39-time champions bullied the home team with a 211-run partnership for the seventh wicket, as skipper Ajit Agarkar (113 batting) and No.6 Aditya Tare (108 batting) compiled patient centuries on a day when no wickets fell.
Inclement weather permitted just 65 overs to be bowled and 181 chanceless runs were patiently accumulated by the Mumbai batsmen.
The visitors resumed on 199/6 after the inevitable delayed start due to fog and rain and frustrated Services’ bowlers – eight of whom were called up on Thursday – for the entire duration, piling on the agony run by vital run to sit on a comfortable 380/6 when matters ended prematurely.
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The match had suffered another jolt early on when a light drizzle warranted evasive measures, but play was uninterrupted thereafter and Mumbai’s authority almost unimpeachable. With the threat of more curtailments looming in the three days ahead, it is likely that things will be decided on the basis of a first innings lead. In which case, Mumbai have already made a strong case for what would be their 44th Ranji Trophy final. And if they have anybody to thank for it, it has to be Agarkar and Tare.
The Mumbai captain was aggressive from the onset. He punched boundaries through the off-side against the seamers before the rain came down, and put his head down for some dogged resistance when play resumed. Agarkar reached his fifty in 109 balls and his fourth First Class hundred in 216 deliveries with a single off left-arm spinner Avishek Sinha.
In his third full season, the 25-year-old Tare was marginally slower. He got to his second Ranji century in 297 deliveries with a dab to the third man fence against fast bowler Nishan Singh, adding to the big double-ton he had amassed against Saurashtra at Rajkot earlier in the season.
Services failed to make an impact. Star bowler Suraj Yadav hobbled off the field with a leg injury. The other seamers persisted with an off-stump line, then changed tact as wickets proved elusive, and finally resorted to the part-timers, including the batting sensation Rajat Paliwal, who turned his arm over without any success.
If there was juice in the pitch on the first day, it had all dried up by now, and Agarkar and Tare faced little bother as they went about their business. The medium-pacers were ineffective, Sinha’s left-arm spin failed to impress, and Pratik Desai’s pretentious leg-spin made no impact. The match finally appears to be heading along reputations and it would take all of Services’ military-style resolve to come back from here. Early wickets on the third morning would go a long way in enabling that.
IN THE OTHER SEMIFINAL: Makvana, Jackson fortify Saurashtra
Mumbai 1st Innings
(Overnight: 199-6. )
A Tare† not out 108
A Agarkar* not out 113
Extras (b-6, lb-4, w-1, nb-4) 15
Total (6 wickets, 143 overs) 380
BOWLING: S Yadav 24-9-49-2, Nishan 31-6-76-1, Nazar 39-11-104-2, Sinha 29-8-75-1, Yashpal 5-0-23-0, Verma 9-1-33-0, Desai 5-2-6-0, Paliwal 1-0-4-0.