Agarkar gives Mumbai the edge
Ajit Agarkar demonstrated that despite his modest success at international level, he is still a force to be reckoned with on the domestic circuit. His 5 for 96 at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi restricted Railways to 284, giving Mumbai a first-innings lead of 77. At close of play on the third day, Mumbai were 3 for 0.
Karnataka faced an uphill run-chase on the final day against Bengal. After conceding a lead of 136, Karnataka pulled things back somewhat, dismissing Bengal for just 206 in the second innings - thanks primarily to Sunil Joshi, who was given the new ball and returned figures of 5 for 62, nailing, among others, Sourav Ganguly for 5 - but that still left them with a daunting target of 343. They closed on 41 for 1, requiring 302 more on the last day to pull off an improbable win.
At Chennai, Tamil Nadu moved into an invincible position, taking a first-innings lead of 298 against Hyderabad. Sivaramakrishnan Vidyut and Sridharan Sharath led the charge with hundreds, while Subramaniam Badrinath, Sridharan Sriram and Hemang Badani all chipped in with half-centuries. Batting again to stave off a possible innings defeat, Hyderabad began brightly, closing the third day on 63 for 0.
Delhi were on their way to a win in their first match of the season. After closing their first innings on 430 for 8 - a lead of 216 - they reduced Gujarat to 205 for 5 in the second innings, with Ashish Nehra and Sarandeep Singh taking a couple of wickets each. Parthiv Patel was one of Sarandeep's victims - he scored 30 before being snapped up by Gautam Gambhir. Gujarat were still trailing by 11, and with an entire day's play left at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, Delhi had an excellent opportunity to wrap up Gujarat's innings and seal a win.
Pankaj Dharmani's 125 allowed Punjab to wrest a first-innings lead of 39 against Uttar Pradesh at Mohali, but UP made a spirited reply, reaching 206 for 2 at stumps. Jyoti Yadav and R Prakash, their opener, added 114 for the first wicket. UP then lost a couple of quick wickets, including that of Mohammad Kaif for just 12, but Yadav continued the charge with an unbeaten 82.
Meanwhile, Venugopal Rao was the star for Andhra Pradesh again, this time with the ball. After scoring 140 in Andhra's first innings, Rao took 4 for 53 to help dismiss Madhya Pradesh for 287. Batting a second time, Andhra started off impressively, scoring 74 for 0, an overall lead of 148.
At Guwahati, Jacob Martin's 126 was the highlight of the day as Baroda posted 347 in reply to Assam's 273. Though none of the other Baroda batsmen managed even a half-century, most of them chipped in handily to ensure a lead of 74. Assam wiped off 71 of those runs by close of play on the third day, losing opener Parag Das in the process.