Until his attempted drive around the off stump resulted in a low catch to gully, Yashasvi Jaiswal appeared to be well on his way to a fourth Ranji Trophy century in a row. Such was the young Mumbai left-handed opener's equanimity right through his four hours and nine-minute stay, spread over two sessions, the first session being of two-and-half hours.
Jaiswal's departure before the short interval of the first day of the five-day Ranji Trophy final was worth 78 runs; a result of the exertion of facing 163 balls that took his tally past the 500-run mark in his third match of the season.
The story of Jaiswal's return to the Mumbai ranks this season has been because of his partial success for IPL team Rajasthan Royals, for which he opened with England's Jos Buttler. Though he did not amass runs in the 10 matches he played for the Jaipur franchise, he had the license to hit out in the first six overs of power play.
The Mumbai selection committee which did not consider him for the shortened league phase of the ongoing season recalled him - for the knock-out - for the first time since his debut against Chhattisgarh at the Wankhede in January 2019. Then, he had made just 20 off 40 balls.
After a three-year gap, Jaiswal has vindicated his recall with a show of defiance against the new ball and grinding the rival bowling to dust. He began with scores of 35 and 103 against Uttarakhand in the quarterfinals, and 100 and 181 against Uttar Pradesh in the semi-finals. The most important thing in these essays has been facing 794 balls in four innings.
On Wednesday, Jaiswal's knock was typically stoical, although his first big scoring shot off left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya Singh was a six. Then, he struck seven 4s interspersed over two long sessions. The first cut shot that raced to the point fence off Kartikeya Singh was as pleasing as the flick to the mid-wicket boundary off right-hand seamer Gaurav Yadav. He hit a flurry of boundaries before directing a catch to Yash Dubey.
After Mumbai elected to bat in overcast conditions, the focus was on openers Prithvi Shah and Jaiswal. The right-left combination did not make it easy for the Madhya Pradesh attack that began with Kartikeya Singh, whom Mumbai Indians had deployed in the later stages of the IPL.
It was a good ploy on the part of MP to deny pace from one end to an attacking batter like Shaw and Jaiswal who had built his previous knocks with defence as the watchword. Both put their heads down, cut out the frills and kept the Madhya Pradesh attack at bay before medium-pacer Anubhav Agarwal achieved the breakthrough by removing Shaw.
But Jaiswal continued to plough along deep into the second session. The rival medium-pacers were relentless, persisting with the off-stump line and giving not much around the front pad. Jaiswal's riposte to the rival bowling tactics was commendable; he left several balls outside the off stump. He also baulked Kartikeya Singh and the right-hand orthodox off-spinner Saransh Jain.
Jaiswal set an example for the other Mumbai batters. The pitch was not easy as it afforded lift and the need of the hour was to play each ball on merit, which Jaiswal did.
The yesteryear batters of Bombay and Mumbai are known to accumulate runs when faced with adversity. Jaiswal did exactly that. The prevailing conditions and discipline the Madhya Pradesh bowlers showed compelled the Mumbai batters to watch the ball all the way. Facing the spinners with the new ball was not a task, nonetheless both Shaw and Jaiswal chose the defensive option.
It was another litmus test for Jaiswal, playing his first Ranji Trophy final, like nine others in the Mumbai team. Though he did not score a century, he earned accolades for a job well done. He was the saviour when runs were difficult to score on the first big day of the final.