When in trouble, dial Wasim Jaffer
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Mumbai completed the first step towards entering the knock-outs when they went past Gujarat's total of 244. For the Mumbai faithful, the sight of Wasim Jaffer at the middle would have been a reassuring sight. The team is without two of their regular batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma; both on India duty, and in this crucial game they needed all the experience and class that Jaffer, a veteran of 206 first-class games, owned.
The importance of Jaffer in the Mumbai side cannot be understated. While people have questioned his leadership skills; he stepped down at the end of last season following a poor campaign, none can build a case against him as a masterful batsman.
Incidentally, Jaffer had resigned as captain after Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni said that Jaffer was a "defensive captain." The coach had also made a point that Jaffer had failed the team by not making big runs in the quarterfinal and semifinal of the 2011-12 season.
Sunday's century; 171 off 271 balls could not have come at a better time for his team. Mumbai have registered just one outright win this season and Jaffer's century and Hiken Shah's 82 put the team in a strong position against Gujarat. At stumps on the second day, Mumbai had a 79-run lead with another five wickets in hand. The most successful team in domestic cricket will need all the points they can gather to guarantee themselves of a spot in the knockout.
Jaffer, after four half-centuries this season, got to the three-figure mark. In all Jaffer now has 30 of them in Ranji Trophy cricket. He is now just one short of Ajay Sharma's century tally of 31, the most by a batsman in the history of the tournament. The only chance Jaffer offered was when he was batting on 171. Chirag Gandhi dropped him at cover off Rush Kalaria. One ball later, Jaffer edged to Parthiv Patel who didn't spill the catch. However, by then Mumbai had reached a position of strength. Kaustubh Pawar and Aditya Tare couldn't convert their starts and it was left to Jaffer and Shah to go about rebuilding the innings. They added 213 runs for the third wicket to ensure that Mumbai took the first innings lead.