Rayudu century puts Rest of India in charge

Irani Cup: Ambati and Manoj help ROI build on their lead against Mumbai at Wankhede.

Mumbai: Ambati Rayudu’s hundred marked a day of drudgery and attrition at the Wankhede Stadium as Rest of India assured themselves, through ways far from spectacular, of retaining the Irani Cup. A dogged and uninspiring first session followed by an outright attack towards close allowed Rest to end the fourth day on a lead of 413 over Mumbai.Ambati Rayudu (File Photo)

More than admiration for Rayudu’s 14th first class century – a knock that switched gears radically mid-way – it was frustration over Manoj Tiwary’s wayward fifty that filled out the first half of play. There was irritation again at Mumbai’s slow over-rate – a trend that continued for the fourth day running, but was later checked by the introduction of spin – and nothing save for the two early wickets on the morning and a flurry of hits near stumps saved the contest from slipping disappointingly into meaninglessness.

Rayudu (118*) and Suresh Raina (40*) added 89 brisk runs for the fifth wicket, every hit pulling the match away from Mumbai, as the visitors finished Saturday on 296/4. The tactics were partly understandable. As captain of Rest, Harbhajan Singh’s main duty was to protect the interest of his team, which he did by allowing his batsmen enough time and more in the middle. Rayudu and Tiwary had earlier added a most dispiriting 140 runs for the fourth wicket at less than three-an-over.

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Although Rest are likely to continue their stranglehold over the Irani Cup, their ploy also meant that the selectors will not get another extended chance to look at some of the prospects ahead of Sunday’s meeting. But there isn’t much information a fourth innings would have provided them that the previous three did not.

Early drama

The day began with Murali Vijay farming the strike and running out nightwatchman S Sreesanth. Vijay pushed to short cover and ran blindly ahead, only to have Rohit Sharma’s direct hit finding Sreesanth short at the striker’s end. The wicket affected Vijay and he looked distinctly uneasy as he edged Dhawal Kulkarni to substitute Kaustubh Panwar, who fudged it at gully.

Vijay did not last, lobbing an easy catch to Rohit off Shardul Thakur. Tiwary then started his bumpy ride. He inside-edged Kulkarni down the leg side just beyond reach of a diving Aditya Tare and was all at sea against Abhishek Nayar. He left deliveries that grazed past the off stump, pushing more in hope than control, before one swerved into his pads and looked good enough for everybody but the umpire.

On the attack

Rayudu dissipated the tension by connecting sweetly with a Thakur outswinger for four and repeated the shot in the same over. Tiwary, meanwhile, played out another squeamish over. Rayudu opened up after lunch, lofting left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan back over his head for six and placing an on drive past the umpire off Javed Khan. Both batsmen completed fifties as the lead neared 300.

Tiwary was out when he tried to paddle-sweep Vishal Dabholkar and was caught in the vicinity of leg-slip by an alert Wasim Jaffer. Then began the most productive phase of the day as Raina went on the offensive.The left-hander's aggression rubbed off on Rayudu as Mumbai chose to not deploy their seamers, putting faith instead in the left-arm spinners Chavan and Dabholkar.

A six and four off Chavan took Rayudu into the nineties and another cut off a Shardul Thakur wide gave him his hundred. Raina too was severe on Chavan, walking down the track to dispatch him over long on, but the southpaw received a life when Pawar dropped him at short leg, the second reprieve conceded by Sachin Tendulkar’s substitute. Mumbai after lunch was a transformed team. They resorted to ineffective spin and did not really go for wickets. A listless last day of the match looms. Don’t expect any fireworks.

Day 4: IRANI CUP 2013 — SCOREBOARD

Rest of India: 526 and 296/4, lead by 413 runs
Mumbai: 409 (1st Innings)

Rest of India (2nd Innings)

Murali Vijay c Rohit Sharma b Shardul Thakur 35 (61)
Shikhar Dhawan c Abhishek Nayar b Dhawal Kulkarni 0 (6)
S Sreesanth run out (Rohit Sharma) 18 (56)
Manoj Tiwary c Wasim Jaffer b Vishal Vishwas Dabholkar 69 (166)
Ambati Rayudu batting 118 (217)
Suresh Raina batting 40 (70)

Extras (lb-2, w-6, nb-6, b-2) 16

Bowling: Dhawal Kulkarni 13-3-31-1, Abhishek Nayar 9-3-28-0, Javed Khan 12-6-21-0, Shardul Thakur 9-0-25-1, Ankeet Chavan 29-4-93-0, Vishal Vishwas Dabholkar 18-1-73-1, Rohit Sharma 5-0-21-0.

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FULL COVERAGE: 2013 IRANI CUP

DAY 3

Report/Scores: Tendulkar ton helps Mumbai recover
My focus is always on cricket: Sreesanth
Sidelights: Why Rohit Sharma has himself to blame

DAY 2

Report/Scores: Mumbai fight back after Raina's hundred
Sidelights: Selection muddle, Wasted chance and more
Sidelights: Harbhajan's losing streak, and waiting for Sachin
I wanted to score heavily: Raina
Will the doors open for Wasim Jaffer?

DAY 1

Report/Scores: Vijay hits hundred
Sidelights: Trainspotting, Sehwag's Delhi belly and Vijay's luck
Vijay happy to be back in runs

PREVIEW

Eyes on stars and struggles

Matches