Not a ball was bowled in the second Ranji Trophy semi-final between Services and Mumbai at the Palam 'A' Ground on Friday, as persistent rain blanked out the entire day. Play was called off around 11 a.m. when a stubborn drizzle and wet outfield compelled the umpires to call it quits.
The Mumbai team left soon after arriving at the venue after it was realised that the weather wouldn't allow the match to resume. Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar were whisked out from the back exit, while the rest of the team left on another bus after waiting in vain for the skies to clear up.
When Ajit met Sachin
Day 2: Mumbai fight back
Day 1: Services stretch Mumbai
'It's not often that I get a hundred'
With Mumbai in a strong position on 380/6 in their first innings and more inclement weather on the cards, there are only two probable ways of arriving at a decision in the last-four clash. One possibility is Mumbai declaring after gaining a sizable total and skittling out Services to gain a first innings lead in whatever play possible in the remaining two days.
A rather chancier scenario shall arise if Services manage to hang on to their innings until time runs out. In this case, the team to qualify for the final will be identified by the spin of coin.
Since the rules have no provision of deciding on a winner through superior run rate or performances in the league stage, one Ranji finalist will then be decided by means of a coin toss – not the most ideal way to deal with things in the knock-out stage of India’s premier domestic competition.
“The pitch is not doing much, and even if Mumbai get to around 450 in their first innings, we will look to overhaul it,” said Services manager Wing Commander Deepak Bhaskar.
“Cricket is all about runs and wickets. We will not take the passive approach. It is possible for us to be positive and take first innings lead.”
"If we had Suraj Yadav, we could have bowled them out yesterday. He has been our man in form with 46 wickets this season and unfortunately he had an injury. He has a small niggle in his ankle. A ball hit him on his ankle in the game against Jharkhand and he has aggravated that slightly," Bhaskar added.
The match also has a provision for a sixth day – if required – for a result. “We have the batting to make it count. But first we have to dismiss Mumbai and then plan on an approach for overhauling their score,” Bhaskar added.
Overcast skies and damp conditions, however, make it unlikely for the match to resume on schedule on Saturday - the fourth day - and Mumbai currently look favourites to enter their 44th Ranji final – unless the lottery of a coin toss restores parity for either team.
Soumya Ranjan Swain, who has been captaining Services in the semifinal instead of the injured Soumik Chatterjee, also sounded confident.
"Leading the team is a huge honour and I enjoy it. It was a challenge to lead the side for a big match like the Ranji semi-final. We did well on the first day but yesterday didn't go according to plan. It's a challenge but we'll fight it out. Only when we restart the game will we know how to go about it. We saw them bat yesterday and it (the pitch) was not too difficult."