Parthiv Patel played a captain's knock remaining unbeaten at 81 at tea © Getty Images
Parthiv Patel played a captain’s knock remaining unbeaten at 81 at tea © Getty Images

Indore: Gujarat continued to stay at the position of advantage in the second session on Day Two of the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 final against Mumbai  here at the Holkar Stadium here in Indore. After a slow start to the day that saw their openers fall early, Gujarat rebuilt their innings courtesy a 69-run stand for the third wicket between skipper Parthiv Patel and Bhargav Merai. Even as the side lost Merai post lunch, Parthiv marched ahead along with Manprit Juneja, as the two added a unbeaten 97-run stand for the fourth wicket and put Gujarat on the cusp of all-important lead. Parthiv, who brought in his 56th First-Class fifty in the process, remained not out on 81 while Juneja scored unbeaten 57 — his 14th First-Class fifty — as Gujarat took tea at 203 for 3, just 25 away from taking lead over Mumbai.

It was not just the two partnerships that hurt Mumbai, but also a few missed chances. To begin with, Merai survived in the first over after lunch, when he should actually have left the field. He got a thick edge off an Abhishek Nayar delivery bowled outside the off stump, which landed in the safe hands of Aditya Tare. All except the umpire Anil Kumar Chaudhary were convinced about it and hence he survived. Merai though, could not capitalise on it and convert it into a big score. He eventually fell in the same fashion, thus becoming Tare’s 49th victim this season — a record of most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in a Ranji season.

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Parthiv, who got a respite in the first session when he was dismissed off a no-ball, continued to frustrate Mumbai bowlers. He survived a close LBW call and a hostile spell by Shardul Thakur to reach to his fifty. After Merai departed, he found an able ally in Juneja, who started playing his shots right from the word go. He opened his account with a flash cut to an outside off stump delivery which flew between the gully and third slip. Shardul had something to say to the fielder at gully — Akhil Herwadkar — as was clearly not happy with his effort and suggested he should have made a better effort.

But Juneja, despite a bit shaky in the early part of his innings, continued to play his shots and collected boundaries from all parts of the ground. He got a life when Shreyas Iyer dropped a sitter at short mid-wicket off Nayar’s bowling —another missed chance for Mumbai. Unlike Merai, Juneja made the most of the life and hammered his 14th Test fifty, which came off 65 balls during the 81st minute of his stay in the middle.

In virtually no time, the two batsmen added unbeaten 97 runs for the fourth wicket and took Gujarat past 200. Thanks to the two partnerships and those few missed chances, Gujarat now are in pole position in the match. They are just 25 runs behind Mumbai’s first-innings total of 228. A big lead here will almost ensure their maiden Ranji title. Looking at the way the two batsmen are going at the moment, it looks like they will sow seeds for it in the final session.

For Mumbai, the pacers have given it their all. If only they got more assistance from the fielders, things could have been different. They need quick wickets to stage a comeback here. They also need their spin duo of Vishal Dabholkar and Vijay Gohil — who have bowled 12 over between them so far and conceded 52 runs — to step up.

Brief scores:

Mumbai 228 lead Gujarat 203 for 3 (Parthiv Patel 81*, Manprit Juneja 57*; Abhishek Nayar 2 for 63, Shardul Thakur 1 for 41) by 25 runs.

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