Orissa v Himachal Pradesh, Ranji Trophy Plate final, 3rd day January 30, 2007

Himachal forge ahead through Mannu and Mukesh

Cricinfo staff

Himachal Pradesh 405 for 8 (Mukesh 84, Mannu 82) lead Orissa 317 (Behera 69, R Das 55, Bhatia 6-84) by 88 runs

Ajay Mannu and Mukesh Sharma struck valuable 80s as Himachal Pradesh gained the first-innings lead and moved closer to the Ranji Trophy Plate Group title at Cuttack. Resuming the third day's play on 157 for 3, Himachal were in early trouble, losing three wickets for just four runs, but Mannu and Mukesh bailed them out.

The duo shared a 114-run stand for the seventh wicket that put Himachal on course to Orissa's first-innings total of 317. Mukesh struck 11 fours and a six in his 176-ball knock while Mannu was more aggressive, hammering four sixes in his 82. The pair took Himachal to touching distance of the lead - Mannu fell when they were only three short - but Mukesh received good support from the tail and consolidated their position.

Sarandeep Singh and Ashok Thakur chipped in with 22 and 35 respectively and took Himachal's total past the 400 mark. Thakur cracked five fours in his 43-ball innings and the two allowed Himachal to harbour hopes of an outright win.