Zaheer robs Delhi of first-innings lead
Mumbai 324 and 198 for 2 (Tare 115*) lead Delhi 324 (Manhas 113, Gambhir 64, Zaheer 5-88) by 198 runs
Zaheer Khan single-handedly helped Mumbai avoid conceding first-innings lead and Aditya Tare and Siddhesh Lad's quick, unbroken 133-run partnership setup an exciting last day's play against arch rivals Delhi at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai.
Delhi started the day at 191 for 3, trailing by 133, with a mini-battle between Zaheer and run machine Mithun Manhas, who was batting on 60 at the start of the day. After getting rid of the other overnight batsman, Manan Sharma, in his first over of the day, courtesy a diving catch at square leg by Vishal Dabholkar, Zaheer bowled an extended spell of seven overs up front.
Even though he troubled Manhas and Rajat Bhatia, the last of the specialist batsmen, he couldn't break the partnership. And with runs flowing from the other end on a pitch that had completely flattened it seemed as if Delhi were cruising for the innings lead and ensure their first three-point haul of the season.
However, just after drinks, Dabholkar struck by inducing an edge off Bhatia to Tare. Wicketkeeper Punit Bisht then kept the scoreboard flowing along with Manhas, who crossed his 22nd Ranji ton without any trouble. Just as Delhi were tightening their grip on the game, Zaheer opted for the new ball with half an hour remaining before lunch and handed it to Javed Khan who responded by trapping Bisht lbw off the very first ball.
Ashish Nehra batted sensibly along with Manhas, who was looking better with every passing over, to inch closer to 325. Still, Zaheer opted to delay his return to the bowling crease and instead threw the ball to Balwinder Sandhu and then left-arm spinner Dabholkar from the other end. Sensing that time was running out, with Delhi having reached 309 for 6, Zaheer brought himself on for the last over before lunch.
And it took him just three balls to remove Manhas with an inswinging delivery that Manhas had no answer to and saw his off stump cartwheeling. Three overs after resumption, Zaheer struck again, taking an edge off Nehra for Tare's gloves. Even though Parvinder Awana struck a boundary to reduce the gap, his defence was shattered by Dabholkar.
With the scores tied soon, Zaheer produced another edge, this time off Vikas Mishra, and Tare completed the catch to give himself and Zaheer a five-for. The first innings was tied, meaning both the teams would earn a point each in case the game didn't produce a result.
Tare walked out with intent along with Kaustubh Pawar and started the innings with a flurry of boundaries off the Delhi pacers. Despite losing Pawar and veteran Wasim Jaffer at the stroke of tea, Tare didn't budge in the last session. Along with Lad, he exhibited glorious strokemaking as they plundered 133 runs in just over 27 overs in the last session. The highlight of the partnership was Tare's four successive boundaries off Awana that saw him race from 75 to 91 and Lad's twin sixes off left-arm spin.
While reveling in the fact that Mumbai "robbed" Delhi of two points, Tare along with coach Sulakshan Kulkarni announced that the hosts would "try and force an outright victory" on the last day by "setting up a challenging target" for Delhi.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo