Vijay's hundred gives Rest of India strong start

IRANI CUP: Rest of India 330-5. Sehwag pulls out with an upset stomach.

Sehwag's loss was Vijay's gain.

Sidelights: Trainspotting & Sehwag's Delhi belly | Vijay happy to be back in runs

MUMBAI: Opener Murali Vijay made the most of his selection to Rest of India by stroking a boundary-strewn century in the Irani Cup against Ranji Trophy winners Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium here.

Vijay’ 116, coupled with half-decent starts from all other batsmen, allowed Rest to end the opening day – after Mumbai’s stand-in skipper Abhishek Nayar sent them in – on a comfortable 330/5 despite a cascade of wickets at the fag end of proceedings.

Nayar led the side in the absence of Ajit Agarkar (groin injury) and his decision to field was influenced by the assistance to seam bowling the pitch was expected to provide. Help from the track was no doubt available – at least in the first hour – but Mumbai’s medium pacers were guilty of straying radically from the recommended lines and lengths, and paid the price as a 144-run opening partnership between Vijay and southpaw Shikhar Dhawan (63) set the stage for almost everybody to chip in with the bat.

ICL runaway Ambati Rayudu – dropped off Rohit Sharma’s docile off-spin when he had scored 36 – helped himself to a half-century in the closing stages, and limited-overs supremo Suresh Raina did his Test credentials no harm by remaining unbeaten on 36 at close – the brisk fourth-wicket alliance between these two generating 78, precisely what the Vijay-Manoj Tiwary combine had achieved earlier for the second wicket.

Mumbai struck back in the last session with three wickets, including Vijay’s. Rayudu departed some seven overs before close and an unusually attacking Wriddhiman Saha succumbed to the new ball. Mumbai will thus begin the second morning with an almost brand new cherry and conditions that will foster seam bowling – provided the bowlers are able to monitor their trajectories better than what they managed on the first day.

Sehwag out

The day started with news of Virender Sehwag pulling out with an upset stomach and surrendering the captaincy to Harbhajan Singh. Rest also forsook young fast bowler Shami Ahmed, sort of neutralizing the advantage they had been lent by the absence of Agarkar and Zaheer Khan from Mumbai. Vijay played and missed against the seamers before punishing Javed Khan for boundaries on the off side. Dhawal Kulkarni had a change of ends and troubled Vijay, rapping him on the pads, with deliveries that angled in.

Shardul Thakur overpitched shamelessly and Dhawan punished him by taking boundaries down the ground. Vijay too capitalized on a string of loose, half-volleys as Thakur conceded five fours in his first two overs. The Tamil Nadu batsman had a couple of close calls against left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar, but hung in there to bring up his fifty with a four off Nayar. Dhawan too reached his half-century with a confident pulled against Kulkarni just before lunch.

First blood

It took a trademark Thakur wide to get the first wicket when, in the fourth over after resumption, a leaden-footed Dhawan played-on. Then began Manoj Tiwary’s troubles at No.3.  The Bengal mainstay survived a huge appeal for leg before to Thakur and was beaten several times outside off by Nayar. Thakur had Vijay caught behind off a huge no-ball when he was on 79. But Vijay was unaffected, upper-cutting Kulkarni over slips for six, and punching the same bowler through mid-on to bring up his century.

Tiwary’s woes continued. He played away from his body, nicking the odd boundary, before Mumbai’s breakthrough man Nayar removed him for 37: a sustained appeal that was upheld after Tiwary had moved across and missed.

Rest were 231/2 at tea, and lost three wickets in the final session, including that of Vijay, who was done in by a Nayar in-swinger. Rayudu was caught at slip by Wasim Jaffer off Rohit Sharma after laboring against spin; and Saha’s blaze of boundaries fizzled out with the arrival of the new ball – a searing Kulkarni in-dipper that trapped him in front.

Read more writings on Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup by Kunal Diwan.


Rest of India: 330/5 in 90 Overs

Shikhar Dhawan b Shardul Thakur 63 (101)
Murali Vijay b Abhishek Nayar 116 (206)
Manoj Tiwary lbw b Abhishek Nayar 37 (67)
Ambati Rayudu c Wasim Jaffer b Rohit Sharma 51 (83)
Suresh Raina 36 not out
Wriddhiman Saha lbw b Dhawal Kulkarni 17 (19)
Harbhajan Singh 0 not out

Extras (lb-4, w-1, nb-5) 10

Bowling: Javed Khan 14-4-41-0, Dhawal Kulkarni 17-3-64-1, Shardul Thakur 12-1-55-1, Vishal Vishwas Dabholkar 18-2-64-0, Abhishek Nayar 19-9-49-2, Ankeet Chavan 5-0-33-0, Rohit Sharma 5-2-20-1.