Iyer century gives Mumbai the edge

Last Updated 25 February 2016, 19:22 IST

Shreyas Iyer made most of an early reprieve to smash his way to a swashbuckling hundred that helped Mumbai stay ahead despite wobbles on either side of his stay in the middle.

The 21-year-old batsman, who has made it a habit of churning out big innings at stunning pace, brought up his sixth career century (117, 142b, 15x4, 2x6) that saved the day for Mumbai who finished an extended second day of the Ranji Trophy final at 262 for eight in 66 overs, 27 runs ahead of Saurashtra here at the MCA Stadium on Thursday.
Mumbai will be hoping that Siddhesh Lad (22) and Iqbal Abdulla (9) increase their cushion substantially.

While bringing up his fourth century of the season, Iyer also topped 1300 runs in a single Ranji Trophy season. His current tally of 1321 runs is second only to VVS Laxman’s 1415 (in the 1999-00 season).

Saurashtra, overnight 192/8, pushed their total to 235 all out after Jaydev Unadkat bludgeoned his way to a 26-ball 31 in the morning. Debutant Prerak Mankad, who was unbeaten on 55, added another 10 runs before he became the fifth victim of Dhawal Kulkarni (5/42).

Having recovered to post a decent total on a surface that had something for the pacers, Saurashtra could have found themselves in a better position had they held on to the chances they had created. The in-from Unadkat needed to make early inroads for Saurashtra to prevent Mumbai from running away with the game and the left-arm seamer didn’t disappoint. The 24-year-old quick dismissed openers Akhil Herwadkar and Bhavin Thakkar in his eight-over spell to keep Saurashtra spirits high. Unfortunately, the paceman had little support from the other end and the pressure he had built with his twin strikes deflated in quick time in the face of Iyer’s relentless onslaught.

Iyer began in his typical fashion, flicking the first ball he faced to mid-wicket fence; an act that appeared oblivious to the situation Mumbai were in at that point in time. There are, however, bound to be chances for the bowling side when someone bats so aggressively and one such opportunity came when Iyer was on 37. The right-hander’s poke off Deepak Punia resulted in a healthy edge to Arpit Vasavada at second slip but the bespectacled fielder grassed an easy offer. Iyer then went on to plunder 80 more runs which may eventually prove to be the difference in the final outcome of this fascinating contest.

Aside from that lone blip, Iyer’s innings shone through brightly for its quality and its value in the context of the game. While Mumbai lost two for 23 before Iyer and a surprisingly-subdued Suryakumar Yadav (48, 112b, 7x4) added a potentially match-winning 152 for the third wicket, they lost five wickets in exchange of 87 runs after the centurion departed in what was a debatable decision on no-ball off Chirag Jani from the TV umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan.

While the struggles from most of the batsmen showed that the pitch hadn’t lost much of its essence, Iyer took both the hard-working Saurashtra attack and the pitch out of equation. The seam, swing and bounce caused little dent in his confidence as he produced an array of dazzling strokes on either side of the track, though drives through the cover region fetched him handsome amount of runs. His counterattack completely deflated the Saurashtra attack while a quiet Yadav played a perfect foil. It wasn’t before he faced 47 balls that Yadav scored the first of his five fours which though came in a torrent afterwards. Their ice and fire approach off-set Saurashtra bowlers’ rhythm and it’s no coincidence that the same attack looked menacing once Iyer made his exit.

Hardik Rathod (3/44) made the most of the situation as the left-arm paceman’s strikes towards the end appeared to have given Saurashtra more than just a ray of hope.
DH News Service

(Published 25 February 2016, 19:22 IST)

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