All through age-group cricket, Shubham Ranjane, Chirag Khurana and Swapnil Gugale used to be Maharashtra team-mates. They were even part of Maharashtra’s triumph in the Col. C. K. Nayudu (U-25) Trophy in 2013-14. On Thursday, pitted against each other for the first time in first-class cricket with Ranjane have switched allegiance to arch-rival Mumbai, the triumvirate stole the limelight on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group A clash at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.
Gugale’s 101 (191b, 268m, 15×4) his fourth first-class hundred and his 146-run opening partnership with Khurana, who made 71 (106b, 177m, 12×4), set the platform for Maharashtra to pile on a big first-innings total. Ranjane then played the role of parternship-breaker, dismissing both the openers and keeping Mumbai in the game. Newcomer Jay Pande’s unbeaten fifty (68 n.o off 142b, 213m, 5×4, 2×6) ensured Maharashtra ended the day at 298 for three on a flat deck.
With the Gahunje strip wearing a green tinge, Mumbai decided to put Maharashtra in to bat. But none of the five specialist bowlers — with a combined 15 Ranji camps coming into the game — could trouble the Maharashtra batsmen consistently. Gugale and Khurana made the new-ball duo of leftie Royston Dias and Shivam Malhotra pay for each of their errors — and there were plenty — in the opening spell. Once Shivam Dube, the in-form all-rounder, was introduced into the attack, he started asking questions with Dias bowling an impressive spell from the other end.
The Maharashtra openers were set by then and survived the onslaught. While Khurana displayed his prowess on the back-foot, drives flowed off Gugale’s blade at will. As a result, Maharashtra was sitting pretty at 113 for no loss, with both the batsmen having crossed fifties.
Swapnil Gugale drives through the covers en route to his century against Mumbai. – VIVEK BENDRE
Soon after lunch, however, Ranjane, the part-timer, gave Mumbai the breakthrough by inducing Khurana into an edge to Aditya Tare behind the stumps. Gugale then stepped up his scoring rate and allowed Pande to take his time. In the last over before tea, Gugale tapped left-arm spinner Dhrumil Matkar for a single and followed it up with a loud roar and high leap to celebrate his century.
First ball after tea, Ranjane struck again, thanks to an inside-edge off Gugale that crashed into the stumps. Dube then got rid of dangerman Naushad Khan with an incoming delivery. Pande, who tonked Matkar for a striaght six to raise his fifty and followed it up with a swat over cow corner in the next, and Tripathi avoided any further damage in the last hour.
Maharashtra first innings: Swapnil Gugale b Ranjane 101, Chirag Khurana c Tare b Ranjane 71, Jay Pande (batting) 68, Naushad Shaikh lbw b Dube 23, Rahul Tripathi (batting) 25
Mumbai bowling: Dias 19-2-66-0, Malhotra 12-1-61-0, Dube 18-5-53-1, Matkar 17-1-52-0, Parkar 10-0-33-0, Ranjane 11-2-30-2