Mumbai: Opener Murali Vijay stroked his way to his second successive century in the Irani Cup as Rest of India (RoI) dominated the opening day of their five-day fixture against recently crowned Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai, at the Wankhede, on Wednesday.
With good contributions from one-down batsman Manoj Tiwary (37), Ambati Rayudu (51) and Suresh Raina (36 not out), RoI ended Day I at 330 for five.
Vijay, who had notched a double century for RoI against last year’s champions Rajasthan, in Bangalore, at the start of the season, compiled an aggressive 116 and also put on a quickfire 144-run stand with opening partner Shikhar Dhawan (63) to lay a strong foundation.
RoI, without captain and opener Virender Sehwag who pulled out at the eleventh hour due to an upset stomach, dominated the day completely.
The situation could have been even better for RoI had Mumbai’s pace spearhead Dhawal Kulkarni not dismissed Wriddhiman Saha just before close with the second new ball for his first wicket.
At stumps, Raina, was on 36 after a near two-hour stay in which he faced 68 balls and hit four fours. Stand-in captain Harbhajan (0) was the other unbeaten batsman at the crease.
Raina, along with Rayudu, also put on 78 runs for the fourth wicket in 122 balls.
For Mumbai, who opted to field after winning the toss, captain Abhishek Nayar was the most successful bowler with figures of two for 49, while the other three wickets were shared by Shardul Thakur, Rohit Sharma and Kulkarni.
The Mumbai new-ball bowlers could not take advantage of a fresh pitch.
Perhaps the decision to put the opposition in to bat was also inspired by the hosts’ successful ploy against Saurashtra in the Ranji final played at the same venue recently.
RoI openers Vijay and Dhawan took advantage of the loose balls by striking a flurry of boundaries to help the team race to the 100-run mark after the former had compiled his 50 off 79 balls.
The 28-year-old Vijay, who has a century to his credit in 12 Tests, played some fine cover drives and hit 17 fours and a six in his 206-ball innings, while Dhawan was merciless on the short-pitched balls and struck 11 fours in his 101-ball essay.
However, both also had luck on their side. When on 40, Dhawan edged left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar to the left of slip fielder Wasim Jaffer who was a bit late to react, while Vijay was bowled off a no-ball when on 79.
Dhawan reached his 50 with a boundary off 85 balls.
Nayar made quick bowling changes but the RoI openers made merry as they went to lunch at 130 without loss with Vijay on 67 and Dhawan on 58.
Mumbai grabbed two wickets in the second session and three more in the final to fight their way back.
Shardul Thakur drew first blood by breaking the opening stand when he saw off Dhawan. The opening wicket partnership lasted for 38.1 overs.
It was a lucky break for the Mumbai team that then saw Vijay having his piece of fortune when he was caught behind off a no-ball from Thakur, 21 short of his 100.
The Chennai-born batsman sprinted to his 11th first class century with a slash for six off Kulkarni, a couple and then a finely timed flick for four to the mid wicket fence in 220 minutes and 170 balls. It contained 16 fours and a six and came after an hour into the post-lunch period.
But Nayar, easily the most impressive of the bowlers with his ability to move the ball both ways, struck two quick blows in 13 balls on either side of tea.
He was a bit fortunate before tea to earn a leg before shout in his favour against Tiwary. Then off the sixth ball after the tea break, Nayar swung the ball in late to castle Vijay's stumps when the batsman played well across.