After Sachin, focus shifts to Zaheer
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If Day One of the Mumbai-Railways fixture was all about Sachin Tendulkar then on Saturday the focus shifted to Zaheer Khan. It has been almost a month since the pacer bowled with the red ball but when it was Mumbai's turn to bowl after they had made a massive 570 in their first innnings, he went wicketless, but looked in good shape.
The Test spearhead was was unlucky, however, as Kaustubh Pawar dropped Amit Paunikar's big nick at second slip early on. Zaheer hit the right lengths and moved the ball bothways to keep the batsmen guessing. Despite Zaheer's good show, it was the other senior citizen of the Mumbai squad that got the breakthroughs.
Ajit Agarkar got Pauniker to chase one outside the off stump and Kaustubh, who by then had floored two chances, grabbed the nick in the slip cauldron. And just two overs later, the Mumbai captain got Shivakant Shukla in similar fashion. Railways ended the day at 80 for two and face a long grind if they are to get anywhere near the Mumbai total. At stumps, veteran Sanjay Bangar and Nitin Bhille were batting on 2 and 9 respectively.
Earlier, Mumbai continued their domination of the Railways bowling as Abhishek Nayar became the third batsman to score a century during Mumbai's first innings. The all-rounder played crucial role by sticking around with tailenders adding several moderate partnerships with the lower-orders. Nayar reached his hundred by hitting a six over long on in the company of the number eleven batsman Zaheer. Overnight batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who was batting on 105, added 25 runs on the day. Agarkar and Iqbal Abdulla went without adding much whereas Ramesh Powar struck 41 runs.
Even as the tailenders departed, Nayar got close to his ton. "I was sceptical the way things were going because there was bounce and turn on offer. Zak (Zaheer Khan) came in and he told me to keep playing and that he would try to stay along till the end. At that point I was just thinking to keep going. If it is meant to be, it will be," he said. As it turned out, it was meant to be.