Mumbai skipper Surykumar Yadav saved the team the blushes against Karnataka. (Source: Pradip Das)
It was an unusual decision, given how the game had panned out so far, but it was one Mumbai’s skipper Suryakumar Yadav was willing to take. He opted to give his medium pacers a bit of a rest when he tossed the ball to off-spinner Shashank Attarde, just for an over. Bowling a spinner on Day One of the Ranji Trophy tie at the MCA-BKC Ground in Mumbai was a gamble as there wasn’t much turn predicted. There was no expectation of a spinner influencing the game. After all, it was the Karnataka pace attack that bowled out Mumbai for a paltry 194 in first innings.
But before describing how the Mumbai spin-unit managed to restrict Karnataka to 74 for 3 at stumps, a quick look at how the visitors’ pace attack ran through the Mumbai line-up is in order.
Karnataka won the toss and opted to bowl first with the idea that the morning moisture would come into play. It was a smart decision, since it took just seven deliveries on the morning for the visitors to draw first blood – Mumbai opener Aditya Tare fell on the first ball he faced after getting caught behind off a V Koushik delivery.
A short while later, Ajinkya Rahane walked out of his crease to chase an outswinger, edging a Ronit More delivery and drawing a smart diving catch from wicketkeeper BR Sharath. Two balls later, More uprooted Siddhesh Lad’s stumps.
Despite Mumbai losing its first three wickets for just 30 runs, there was a silver lining in the discipline on display from the other opener Prithvi Shaw. The 20-year-old, who just last month scored a double-ton, was picking his shots carefully and confidently, finding the boundary at regular intervals. But the mistake did come, when a thick inside edge off an Abhimanyu Mithun delivery played on to the stumps.
And that was the recurring theme for most of the afternoon. Karnataka stayed patient and hit the right areas, tempting the Mumbai batsmen. Left arm pacer Prateek Jain picked up the wickets of Sarfaraz Khan and Shams Mulani in quick succession. Mumbai were tottering at 60 for 6. It was a firm reminder of Mumbai’s last Ranji Trophy match, where the entire Mumbai team were bowled out in a single session. Clearly, lessons were not learned, and the hosts lacked the application and intent.
What eventually took the hosts up to 194 was the tenacity of Yadav. The captain has been in a good run of form and was clear in his shot selection on the day. There were no signs of impatience, as he took his time and waited for the opposition to tire, and also picked his moments. For example, when leg spinner Shreyas Gopal was introduced to the attack for the first time on the day, the 29-year-old hit him for 19 runs – which included two boundaries and Yadav using his feet for a six over long off.
With the field spread for Yadav, the middle order batsman played some unorthodox strokes. He swept left arm pacer Jain for a six and played late behind trying to find the gap between slips and third man. Yadav’s intent was clear. But as he carved through the Karnataka attack, he ran out of partners till he teamed up with Attarde, who walked in at number eight. By then – post lunch – the pitch eased out and there wasn’t much movement from the ball, giving the batsman liberty to free their arms.
Together, the pair added 88 for the seventh wicket until Attarde edged a Koushik delivery to Abhishek Reddy at slips. Just under seven overs later, Yadav came out of his crease, but the Mithun delivery kissed his gloves and Sharath took the resulting catch. It didn’t take much time thereon for Karnataka to wrap-up the Mumbai innings.
In reply, Karnataka openers Devdutt Padikkal and R Samarth gave their team a steady start.
They were risk free and played the ball as per its merit. That’s when Yadav made his move and called Attarde. The spinner managed to get sharp turn, surprising teammates and opponents alike. It even prompted left arm spinner Mulani, standing at mid-on, to signal at Yadav to let him bowl from the other end.
Mulani was unlucky as Sarfaraz dropped Samarth at gully, but he finally got the much needed break as he trapped Padikkal with 15 minutes left of play. Two balls later, Sarafraz made amends and took a brilliant low catch at silly point to get Abhishek Reddy. Mulani's two quick wickets gave Mumbai hopes of a fight back.
Attarde took the third wicket to dismiss Rohan Kadam, who tried to scoop the ball only for him to find Sarfaraz.
From 68 for no loss, Karnataka ended their day one 79 for 3, trailing the hosts by 115. A Mumbai comeback is now on the cards, but the onus will now be on the pacers when they come out on the second day.
Brief Scores: Mumbai 194 all out (Suryakumar Yadav 77, Shashank Attarde 35; V Koushik 3 for 45) Vs Karnataka 79 for 3.