On a lively pitch, Saurashtra’s wheels come apart

Saurashtra veteran Shitanshu Kotak tends to thrive in adversity and there was plenty of that when he went out to bat against Mumbai. Saurashtra were 12/2, done in as much by the nerves of playing their first Ranji finals as perhaps as by the early movement that the Mumbai medium-pacers, Dhawal Kulkarni in particular, had extracted in the air and off the pitch. The visitors needed patience and a bit of experience. Kotak, 39, has both in abundance, and has built a reputation of digging the team out of a hole.

He had battled through a tough initial spell and as his vigil neared the two hour mark, Kotak began to look increasingly more settled. Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar had just taken himself out of the attack and brought in Kulkarni, who had taken both the wickets, to bowl in tandem with the left-arm spinner Vishal Dhabholkar. The 39-time champions had gotten off to an emphatic start, but they knew they needed Kotak's wicket to breathe easy. For four years ago, it was against Mumbai in the Ranji quarterfinals that he had batted 796 minutes for an unbeaten 168 to see Saurashtra through to the semis.

There wouldn't be a repeat of that day, however.

Having smothered a fuller-length ball from Dhabolkar with a perfect forward defensive shot, Kotak moved back to play the next one, which was dropped a bit short, expecting it to turn. To the batsman's surprise, it came straight and took the outside edge and flew towards first slip where Wasim Jaffer collected it calmly. Saurashtra were 36/3, and in even bigger trouble than the scorecard might have suggested.

After opener Sagar Jogiyani and one-down Rahul Dave's dismissal by Kulkarni inside the first 10 overs, Kotak's wicket was the body blow from which Saurashtra, failed to recover. They were dismissed for 148 as Mumbai ended the Day One at 19/0 and in complete command. Soon after Kotak's dismissal, Kulkarni sent back the in-form Sheldon Jackson (5) with the ball that shot off from a length and took an edge on it's way to the wicketkeeper. From the other end, Dhabholkar got rid of captain Jaydev Shah in the next over to make it 50/5.

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