The disappointment of not playing their next game at their preferred venue — the lively…
Siddhartha Sharma,New Delhi: With Mumbai stranded on 104/5 in reply to Baroda’s first innings total of 305
at Palam, the chances looked bleak but hope wasn’t lost. “Mumbai culture is such that you can never afford to give up in any situation. In the last match, the way Abhishek Nayar batted, I was inspired by him and learned that one should never give up hope,” said opener Akhil Herwadkar.
With such words resonating in his mind, the Mumbai left-hander kept faith in himself and the tailenders to bail his side out of deep trouble. It was just a matter of pure application on a two-paced wicket and Herwadkar displayed it to perfection as he notched up his fifth first-class century (106). More importantly, it was his involvement in three crucial partnerships that gave Mumbai the courage to pierce Baroda’s resistance and ensure a lead of seven runs at stumps on Day Two.
While Herwadkar played an anchoring role relying to play through the V, pacer Balwinder Sandhu remained unbeaten on 56 to see Mumbai make 313/8. Mumbai might have secured the first innings lead but with two days to go, the match is perfectly poised for a result.
Mumbai can’t thank Herwadkar enough. In the last game, Herwadkar had thrown away a good start. He, however, was not in the mood to repeat the same mistake. Having lost Suryakumar Yadav at a crucial juncture at 99/3, the side needed another vital partnership. However, all hell broke loose as the next two wickets fell in the space of five runs, making it a difficult ask for Mumbai. As the sun shone bright, the wicket was slowing further and the only way to keep the scoreboard ticking was to have a patient and mature approach. The ball wasn’t coming on to the bat and one had to wait for the bowlers to err.“I was tensed but I had a belief that even though a few wickets fell in succession, there will be a partnership too and that will change the course of the game,” said Herwadkar. The opener’s intuition was right.
Before the Ranji Trophy, Herwadkar had scored an unbeaten 82 against Australia A in Brisbane and has been keenly following coach Rahul Dravid’s advice since. “Rahul sir told me that there is no use of 30-40 runs. So, if I score a century or 70-80 and might look a little iffy as well, that will still be credited. But if you are struggling to get runs at the start of your innings, you should never give up,” he said.
Herwadkar and Abhishek Nayar had bailed Mumbai out of trouble against Tamil Nadu at Lahili, and once again, the duo lived up to reputation with Herwadkar playing second fiddle. Nayar was lucky to be dropped at second slip and the duo added 68 runs to help their side gain control.
The partnership proved crucial as it not only slowed the game but made the bowlers tired, forcing them to bowl loose deliveries. However, just when it looked Nayar was taking the game away from Baroda, Deepak Hooda provided an important breakthrough as the scorecard read 172/6.
Baroda looked confident with the fall of Nayar’s wicket but Mumbai’s tail had other plans. “Our tail gave me confidence. Our lower order has been performing from last year. Balwinder was special and I had full faith in his batting abilities,” said Herwadkar.
Sandhu batted beautifully and helped Herwadkar to complete his century. Mumbai stumbled briefly after he was dismissed, but Sandhu negotiated the final hour to score 56.