Mumbai: Debutant medium pacer Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Jr) bagged five wickets but Mumbai let Punjab off the hook as the visitors rode on number seven batsman Bipul Sharma`s half century to post 226 on the opening day of their concluding Elite Group A Ranji Trophy match on Wednesday.
Sandhu swung the ball both ways right through the day to finish with fine figures of five for 66 and was well-supported by fellow seamer Kshemal Waingankar (3/80), but the hosts failed to tighten the noose around the visitors after having them reeling at 91 for six at lunch at the Wankhede Stadium.
Sharma made 68 in six minutes over three hours. He struck five fours and three sixes in his 164-ball essay to help Punjab to a total that looked beyond them when they were 0 for 2 and then 87 for six just before lunch.
At stumps, Mumbai had replied with 22 for no loss with openers Kaustubh Pawar (5) and Praful Waghela (12) at the crease.
The dismissal of Punjab`s batting mainstay of the season Mayank Siddhana for 34, caught in the leg trap off off Ramesh Powar at the stroke of lunch, left only the lower order to rally them around and Bipul did it with support from the tail.
Mumbai also missed the presence of Avishkar Salvi who suffered a side strain after bowling just nine balls and dismissing opener Sarul Kanwar for a duck off the second ball.
The lanky medium pacer was off the field for the rest of the day and is unlikely to play any further part in the match, according to Mumbai Cricket Association sources.
To make matters worse for the home team was the groin injury sustained by wicketkeeper and opener Sushant Marathe who fell to the ground after leaping high to his left to try and stop a bouncer from Waingankar. He too is doubtful for the rest of the four-day tie.
Punjab, with only 15 points in their kitty and needing an outright victory to ensure their berth in the quarterfinals, started the proceedings on the wrong foot.
Put in by Mumbai captain Wasim Jaffer, the visitors lost their openers Kanwar and Ravi Inder Singh without scoring to be two down after only nine balls.
Kanwar edged Salvi to stumper Marathe and Inder Singh was caught by Pawar in the leg trap off Sandhu to give the debutant his maiden first class wicket.
Luck seemed to have smiled on them with Salvi`s abrupt departure to the dressing room after bowling just three balls in his second over.
But Waingankar, replacing Salvi, struck a big blow after 15 runs were put on the board when he had the experienced one down Karan Goel caught behind for 10.
Sandhu secured his second wicket by trapping rival captain Uday Kaul leg before to leave Punjab tottering at 33 for four.
A brief partnership ensued between Siddhana and Amitoze Singh before Sandhu dismissed the latter for 19 with 74 on board and then Mumbai were on top when Siddhana, looking confident, was caught bat-pad at short leg off Powar.
Rahul Sharma (13) lasted a while on either side of lunch before Waingankar had him caught at mid wicket pulling a short ball and the end was in sight with Punjab on 106 for seven.
Left-handed Bipul Sharma found able partners in Harmeet Singh, who made 23 in 82 minutes with three fours and a six, and Navdeep Singh (24 not out in 89 minutes with three fours) to take the score past 200.
The eighth wicket stand produced 51 runs and after the fall of Harmeet, Bipul Sharma added 45 runs with Navdeep before Waingankar bowled Sharma.
Sandhu dismissed last man Baltej Singh with a gentle inswinger to complete a memorable debut.