Domestic doyen Wasim Jaffer showed his mastery with a 53rd first-class hundred in Vidarbha’s 289 for two against Rest of India on the opening day of the Irani Cup, which witnessed an out-of-sorts Ravichandran Ashwin trying his hand at bowling leg breaks.
The Ranji Trophy champions were hardly bothered by the Rest of India bowlers on a placid Jamtha track as the 40-year-old Jaffer remained unbeaten on 113 off 166 balls with 16 boundaries and a six to his credit. He was as regal in his strokeplay as he has always been, becoming the highest ever run-getter in the history of Irani Cup.
Jaffer, who was appearing in his 242nd first-class matches, has now played 12 Irani Cup games (mostly for Mumbai, a few for Rest of India and now for Vidarbha) with over 1000 runs — the tally is more than the top-5 that includes legends such as GR Vishwanath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sunil Gavaskar.
Ashwin’s figures of 25-1-66-1 won’t tell the story about him being largely ineffective primarily due to lack of assistance from the track.
In between, Ashwin tried bowling leg-breaks, but Jaffer and Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal (89, 190 balls) negotiated him without much difficulty.
There has been insecurity about losing his place to younger wrist spinners in the limited overs set-up, and the more variations that Ashwin tried, the more he looked out of place. The leg-breaks didn’t turn and Jaffer at times would just lean on the back foot and tap it away.
When he tried to flight the ball, Jaffer or opener Sanjay Ramaswamy (53, 111 balls) would come down the track to negate it.
The most disappointing aspect of Ashwin’s bowling was lack of venom in his off-breaks as there was hardly any visible turn off the pitch.
The successful opening pair of Fazal and Ramaswamy once again showed why they had made such a big impact in Vidarbha’s Ranji triumph, adding 101 runs for the opening stand.
Ramaswamy, in fact, hit a big straight six off left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, apart from six boundaries.
Fazal was more dogged in his approach, something that got him 900 runs in the Ranji season.
Ramaswamy was finally gone after lunch, trying to work Jayant Yadav on the leg-side and offering a simple catch to Ravikumar Samarth at short mid-wicket.
Once Jaffer came in, he showed why he belonged to a different league.
The first short ball from Jayant was pulled for a boundary and the next was through square.
Navdeep Saini was cover driven and then came the Jaffer patented whip off his pads to the mid-wicket boundary. He also repeated the shot against Siddarth Kaul.
70 off his 113 came in boundaries and he showed time and again as to why he will forever remain one of India’s finest first-class batsmen.
A six was hit off Jayant Yadav (1/73 in 18 overs), who didn’t look like being among India’s elite domestic cricketers at the moment.
His sixth consecutive half-century in Irani Cup came when he cover drove Ashwin, and a thickish edge over slips off Jayant got him to his century.
In the process, he added 118 runs with Fazal for the second wicket and another 72 for the unbroken third wicket with Ganesh Sathish (29 batting).