Medium pacer Mukesh Kumar rattled Saurashtra with some high quality swing bowling before Sarfaraz Khan continued his dream run with an attractive hundred to put Rest of India in the driver’s seat on the opening day of Irani Trophy match on Saturday. At stumps, Sarfaraz’s unbeaten 125 off 126 balls took Rest of India to 205 for 3 after Mukesh’s swing and scorching pace from young guns Kuldeep Sen (3/41) and Umran Malik (3/25) demolished the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy Champions for a meagre 98 in 24.5 overs.
In the presence of chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma and his colleague Sunil Joshi, Sarfaraz gave an exhibition of his wide array of strokes that included 19 boundaries and three sixes.
Coming in when the Rest were tottering at 18 for 3, in the post lunch session, Sarfaraz played one of his most counter punching knocks to take the stuffing out of Saurashtra attack while adding 185 for the unbroken fourth wicket stand with Hanuma Vihari (62 batting off 145 balls).
The hallmark of Sarfaraz’s innings was how he picked the length very early and that enabled him to play late. He played some attractive shots square of the wicket but the manner in which he toyed with domestic doyen Jaydev Unadkat was worth watching.
Unadkat bowled two bouncers at varied pace. In the first one, he kept his shape to come under the delivery and pulled it uppishly for a six.
The next bouncer from the same spot, he rolled his arms over to keep the pull shot down for a boundary.
It was a late cut off left-arm spinner Dharmendra Jadeja that brought his century. Later in one over of Jadeja, he repeatedly slog-swept him for three boundaries as Unadkat was forced to open his field to stop boundaries.
However in the morning, the pitch was spicier than expected.
On a track that offered good bounce and some early moisture aiding a bit of nip in the air, Mukesh (4/23 in 10 overs) literally decimated Saurashtra with his first spell as he made the batters play every delivery.
Most of his deliveries swung in and either left the batter late after pitching or straightened with the keeper and slip cordon pitching almost everything that came its way.
The best part about each dismissal was that it was more about bowler hitting the fuller length while delivering very close to the stumps.
Neither of the two openers Harvik Desai and Snell Patel played away from their body but the Bengal seamer, who had a dream A series versus New Zealand, made them push at deliveries on off stump.
However, the prized scalp of Cheteshwar Pujara (1) belonged to Kuldeep, who bowled quick and straight to get a thick outside edge flew to the slips.
But the man who terrorized batters bowling 145-plus clicks regularly was Umran.
The manner in which batter after batter were shuffling towards leg stump to avoid getting hurt was exhilarating.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 98 in 25.4 overs (Mukesh Kumar 4/23, Kuldeep Sen 3/41, Umran Malik 3/25) Rest of India 205/3 (Sarfaraz Khan 125 batting, Hanuma Vihari 62 batting).
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