Abhishek Nayar once again proved why he is priceless for the Mumbai Ranji team as his gutsy 91 enabled the defending champions to set Gujarat a stiff target of 312 in the final of the Ranji Trophy here on Friday.
After Gujarat dismissed Mumbai for 411 in their second innings, openers Priyank Kirit Panchal (34 not out) and Samit Gohel (8 not out) were at the crease when the umpires called it a day -- with the second-time finalists, at 47-0, requiring 265 runs to win the coveted title.
Earlier, seasoned all-rounder Abhishek Nayar (91) and captain Aditya Tare (69) propped up Mumbai, who are bidding to extend their record haul of 41 Ranji Trophy titles.
Resuming the day at 208-3, Mumbai failed to put up a strong partnership throughout the day. They were driven by the individual brilliance of Nayar and Tare. The first wicket of the day was overnight batsman Suryakumar Yadav (49), with the former captain scoring barely four runs in the morning.
Incoming batsman Siddesh Lad too didn’t last long, falling at an individual score of 15 when he was caught by Chirag Gandhi off left-arm medium pacer RP Singh.
At 270-5, walked in left-hander Nayar but soon Tare, who scored his 17th fifty in first-class cricket, lost his wicket -- a LBW verdict in favour of Hardik Patel. Tare’s knock was studded with 12 fours. After the captain’s wicket, Nayar decided to take the attack to the opposition, even as his partners kept changing regularly. Nayar used the long range shots to good effect, launching five fours and five sixes as he waged a lone battle against Gujarat in his 31st fifty.
Balwinder Singh Sandhu (20) and Vishal Dabholkar (12) did their best to support Nayar, who was the last batsman to the dismissed, with R.P. Singh getting a LBW decision.
For Gujarat, medium pacer Chintan Gaja took six wickets for 121 runs, adding Sandhu, Shardul Thakur (2) and Dabholkar to the three he took on Thursday.
Gujarat, who had taken a 100-run first-innings lead, were set a target of 312 runs. In-form openers Panchal and Gohel put them on the right path from the beginning, scoring 47 runs for no loss. Panchal, who has 1,276 runs prior to this innings in the Ranji Trophy season, looked in ominous form as he hit seven fours during his unbeaten knock of 34 runs from 45 deliveries.
At the other end, Gohel was determined to come afresh on Saturday which will be one of the biggest days for Gujarat cricket.