On a day where Sarfaraz Khan continued to break all records, it was the underdogs, Madhya Pradesh who dominated the proceedings, ending the day on 123/1, 251 runs behind Mumbai’s first-innings total.
Earlier in the day, the Mumbaikar Sarfaraz continued to plummet the MP bowling attack, with his fourth century of the season, scoring 134 off 243 balls, taking his run tally to 937 runs in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. The 41-time champions ended their first innings on a fighting total of 374, having started the day on the backfoot.
But what stood out was how he managed the innings after Shams Mulani was trapped leg before by Gourav Yadav (4/106) in the opening over of the second day. His innings had 13 boundaries and two huge sixes --- one over square leg off left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya and one down the ground off off-spinner Saransh Jain.
Madhya Pradesh won't be too displeased with their efforts, as they finished the second day at 123 for one with Yash Dubey (44 batting) and Shubham Sharma (41 batting) adding 76 runs for the unbroken second wicket.
The manner in which Sarfaraz has turned a corner since the 2019-20 season (928 runs back then) is phenomenal as he had disciplinary issues early in his career, which also forced him to leave Mumbai for a season. His batting with the tail showed his new-found maturity, which is proving to be a boon for Mumbai cricket. He chose to attack the loose deliveries for boundary, forcing MP captain Aditya Shrivastava to open the field.
With father Naushad Khan, who also doubles up as his coach, making him play 400 balls (nearly 67 overs including nets and knocking) a day at practice, Sarfaraz 2.0 is a battle-hardened man, the khadoos street fighter' that any captain would want to go to a war with.
Sarfaraz and the lion's crest
Once he reached his fifty, he touched the lion's crest on his jersey, gesturing 'Don't worry, I am going nowhere'. His batting isn't as pleasing to the eye as Prithvi Shaw's but highly effective. His batting is assuring. He knows how to score those runs on a track that is largely two-paced and in overcast conditions with the ball doing a fair bit.
When MP skipper spread the field to stop boundaries, he still found his way to play the controlled square cut off seamer Anubhav Agarwal, which bisected the two fielders stationed at deep extra cover and deep point to the fence.
💯 for Sarfaraz Khan! 👏 👏— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) June 23, 2022
His 4⃣th in the @Paytm #RanjiTrophy 2021-22 season. 👍 👍
This has been a superb knock in the all-important summit clash. 👌 👌 #Final | #MPvMUM | @MumbaiCricAssoc
Follow the match ▶️ https://t.co/xwAZ13U3pP pic.twitter.com/gv7mxRRdkV
Having entered '90s, he played a typical T20 scoop over keeper's head while being partially blindsided and completely off-balance. It was a sight worth capturing. At 97, MP skipper Shrivastava put all his fielders at the boundary line with two standing at long-on and long-off. The ploy wasn't good enough to stop Sarfaraz as he thumped one over bowler's head which went to the boundary.
The celebration was a war cry and a thigh thump. There were tears of relief that he shed having accomplished what he had set out to do. The Indian Test team's middle-order is still jam-packed but the manner in which Sarfaraz is batting, to put it in head coach Rahul Dravid's words, he is not just knocking but banging the selection door down.
Sarfaraz was involved in four small, but very effective, partnerships which could prove to be decisive if the match turns out to be an affair of one innings. He added 40 for seventh wicket with Tanush Kotian (15), 26 for the eighth wicket with Dhawal Kulkarni (1), 39 for the ninth with Tushar Deshpande (6) and another 21 priceless runs for the final wicket with Mohit Avasthi (7).
By the time, he became Mumbai's last batter to be dismissed, he had ensured that the total is good enough for his bowlers to defend. But there are ominous signs as MP batters have looked solid so far and Mumbai's bowling line-up hasn't made much of an impact, save Tushar Deshpande's delivery that straightened to find Himanshu Mantri's (31) pads.
Brief Score: Madhya Pradesh 123/1 (Yash Dubey 44*, Shubham Sharma 41*; Tushar Deshpande 1/31) trail Mumbai (Sarfaraz Khan 134; Gaurav Yadav 4/106) by 251 runs