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    Irani Cup: Jaffer, Rahane lead strong Mumbai reply

    Mumbai: Mumbai's top-order pair of Wasim Jaffer and Ajinky Rahane - one a former India opener and the other a hopeful one - led a strong reply from the current Ranji Trophy champions after Rest of India (ROI) posted 526 on day two of the Irani Cup here on Thursday. ROI were driven to a very strong total by Test hopeful Suresh Raina's brisk 134 but the good work from Jaffer (80) and Rahane (55 not out) gave the home team hope of crossing that, especially with Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma and an in-form Abhishek Nayar left to bat.

    The day began with ROI on 330 for 5, with Raina on 36. He crossed his fifty in the 103rd over with a couple off the pads and then proceeded to four fours in six balls; three came off Rohit's part-time off spin as the left-hander found the third man, midwicket and extra cover boundaries with precision. That set in motion a period of acceleration from Raina, who hit his second six off left-arm spinner Vishal Dhabolkar as he moved from 70 to 100 in just 23 deliveries. The landmark came up with a well-placed cut shot off Nayar just after ROI's total crossed 100.

    Raina celebrated by taking two more sixes off Dhabolkar. His fourth maximum also came off a spinner, but trying to collect another Raina fell off the very next delivery from Ankeet Chavan for 134 off 169 balls. He was ninth out as ROI lost their last four wickets for 21 runs. Chavan had the best figures (3 for 56) for Mumbai. For ROI, Abhimanyu Mithun too played a key role with 51 off 90 balls, adding 153 with Raina for the seventh wicket.

    In reply to 526, Mumbai started with Jaffer getting fours off the second and third balls of Sreesanth's opening over but were set back momentarily with the wicket of Aditya Tare. Looking to drive Madhya Pradesh pace bowler Ishwar Pandey, Tare got a thick edge to gully for 6 (14 for 1).

    That brought to the crease Rahane, who was away with a sweet punch off the pads for four. Jaffer rounded off Sreesanth's first spell (4-1-23-0) with boundaries past point and welcomed Mithun into the attack with a couple fours through the offside. With Rahane purring from the start - Pandey was driven down the ground and past cover elegantly - Mumbai's total eased past fifty in the 14th over.

    Jaffer played well off the back foot and front; he threaded the gap at cover with a front-foot drive off Pragyan Ojha and reached his half-century moments later by pulling Mithun to fine leg. Ojha was then lofted over mid-on for six. However, with about 20 minutes left to go in the day, the Mumbai veteran feathered a catch through to Ambati Rayudu - keeping wickets in place of the unfit Wriddhiman Saha - two balls into a new spell from Sreesanth.

    Rahane, on 54 at the time, shut shop from here on and with the nightwatchman Shardul Thakur (4) took Mumbai to stumps without further loss.