Rescuing Mumbai from a point where Saurashtra looked to be all over them after reducing them to 44 for three, Ajinkya Rahane (108 not out, 250b, 14×4, 2×6) and Sarfaraz Khan slammed superb centuries (121 not out, 219b, 15×4, 2×6), adding 219 for their fourth wicket alliance in 448 balls to take the 41-time champs to 263 for three by stumps. If the first hour was won by Saurashtra, in which their captain Jaydev Unadkat took Mumbai skipper Prithvi Shaw’s scalp, Rahane and Sarfaraz’s magnificent knocks ensured that the day belonged to Mumbai.
Giving his best shot to ensure that he gets one more lifeline by the selectors for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka at home, Rahane — under tremendous pressure to retain his place in the side — did well to shrug off his prolonged poor form by stroking his 36th first-class century- perhaps a career-saving knock. It was his first hundred in any format since his match-winning 112 against Australia at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test in December 2020.
Displaying his class and experience, India’s 33-year-old Test batsman found the ideal ally in Sarfaraz. The duo did well to score their tons in a pressure situation on a wicket with good carry against a decent Saurashtra attack, which included last Ranji Trophy season’s highest wicket-taker Jaydev Unadkat, his fellow left-arm seamer Chetan Sakaria and left-arm spinner Dharamendrasinh Jadeja, who went wicketless for 100 runs in 24 overs.
Rahane weathered the initial storm, playing out a torrid opening spell from Unadkat. So confident was he in the middle that he didn’t mind going to 99 with a six off Jadeja.
The talented Sarfaraz— who had been picked up for India A for the tour of South Africa last year — seemed to have picked his form straight from the last Ranji Trophy season in 2019-20, which saw him score 928 runs in just six games at an incredible average of 154.66, including a triple hundred against Uttar Pradesh. Despite the long break since then, he continues to score runs at will in the Ranji Trophy.
Deciding to eschew his normal attacking game, Sarfaraz chose to hold one end up initially, making only nine off 60 balls till lunch. He only changed gears after lunch, smashing left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja for two consecutive fours and a six. When Rahane reached his hundred, Sarfaraz was batting in the 70s, but by the end of the day, he had overtaken his senior batting partner.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Mumbai fell into trouble right away in the morning as they slipped to 44 for three losing the wickets of skipper Prithvi Shaw (1), Aakarshit Gomel (8) and Sachin Yadav (19). Shaw was the first to fall, caught behind off his opposite number, left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat in the third over. Gomel and Yadav were scalped by Sakaria and Chirag Yadav.
Earlier, Mumbai surprisingly dropped opener Yashasvi Jaiswal and allrounder Shivam Dube, preferring to play Gomel and Yadav instead.