Mumbai in command as Jaffer scales Mt Ranji

Mumbai, Jan. 28 -- Given his talent, an aggregate of 1944 runs in 31 Tests is a case of unfulfilled potential. However, no one complains about how Wasim Jaffer has gone about his job in Ranji Trophy. The 2012-13 final, underway at the Wankhede Stadium, yet again underlined his stature in domestic cricket. On Sunday, he climbed the summit of century-makers' list, besides topping the run aggregate chart with 9155 runs.

If Mumbai cricket has been able to maintain its position at the top in this age of competition, Jaffer's contribution is unmistakable. The lanky opener came up with another special performance, scoring a patient century on a wicket, which spelt Saurashtra's doom in the first innings.

Riding on the 34-year-old's knock of 132 (246 balls, 16 fours, 1 six), Mumbai moved closer to their 40th Ranji title on the second day of the five-day game.

Experience matters

To their credit, the bowlers toiled gamely, but the experienced home team campaigners did enough to stay in control of the title clash. Mumbai finished the day on 287 for six to be 139 runs in front. With four wickets in hand, a lead of 200 is achievable, which, on this lively track, should be enough to put the game beyond the depleted Saurashtra batting lineup.

Mumbai's pursuit of 148 on India's version of a seaming track was not exactly a stroll in the park, but the home team batsmen were ready to put their egos aside and bat against their grain. The hosts took 23.2 overs to reach the 50-run mark with Jaffer on 23 (84 balls) and his opening partner, Kaustubh Pawar on 17 (61 balls).

Jaffer was comprehensively beaten by left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat with Mumbai on 32. The ball went through the stalwart's defence to the wicketkeeper and Unadkat led a vociferous appeal for a catch off the inside edge, but umpire Hariharan was unmoved. Jaffer didn't falter again till he reached his hundred.

He quietly accumulated runs with Pawar, sticking to the primary target of seeing off the new ball. At one point, he waited for 78 balls to hit a four -- a gap of nearly two hours between his second and third boundary.

Even though Saurashtra's new-ball attack created some excitement, it did not last long. No sooner did the spinners come into action, Jaffer went on a boundary-smashing spree. The shackles were broken with three fours in a row off left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja in the 33rd over.

The languid grace was back and, against the pacers, he was driving stylishly through the off, while picking up length balls to deliver them to midwicket.

The one aspect about the highest run-getter in Ranji history, which is not a great example for youngsters, is his running between wickets. Sachin Tendulkar was a victim of misunderstanding, as Jaffer didn't react to his call for a quick single and the maestro was caught short of the crease.

Jaffer too was fortunate to survive a run out when he was caught short by a direct hit from Sheldon Jackson, but the TV umpire felt 'keeper Sagar Jogiyani had knocked off the stumps before the ball hit them.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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