Karnataka edge ahead with Pawan and Dravid fifties
Karnataka 195 and 195 for 1 (Pawan 76*, Dravid 77*) lead Mumbai 337 (Naik 78, Kukreja 66, Kumar 3-50, Joshi 3-67) by 53 runs
Karnataka batted their way out of trouble and towards a position of strength on a track that got progressively slow, wiping out the 142-run first-innings deficit and ending the third day with a 53-run lead against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. The batting was propelled by KB Pawan and Rahul Dravid, who scored 76 and 77 and put on an unbroken 126-run partnership, after Vinay Kumar grabbed three quick wickets to wrap up Mumbai's innings in the morning.
Only four wickets fell on the day as Karnataka made slow progress - barring the first ten overs - at 2.53 runs per over. The intent, it seemed, was to first avoid defeat before thinking about the possibility of a win. They might up the ante tomorrow, declare with 200 ahead and leave around 50 overs for Anil Kumble and Sunil Joshi to come into play on a fourth-day track.
However, the openers were refreshingly positive early on. Rowland, out for a duck in the first innings, got a huge stride forward and, though Ajit Agarkar did beat him on a couple of occasions, he put away the bad balls, twice driving Rajesh Verma through the covers. When Agarkar bowled two bouncers in an effort to push him on the back foot, Rowland went for the cut and the pull, top-edging one to the third man boundary. Though the execution wasn't perfect, the intent to attack was obvious.
Pawan, edgy throughout his stay in the first innings, hit his stride slowly. He drove Verma through the covers and got behind the line of Agarkar's deliveries before Mumbai turned to spin, in the form of Ramesh Powar, in the tenth over.
Powar flighted a majority of deliveries and pushed the occasional one through but couldn't repeat his first-innings magic on a track that had lost its venom. Rowland fell soon after lunch, missing an intended drive off Rajesh Verma, which brought in Dravid. Unlike the first innings, Dravid made a tentative start: he was beaten by the fourth delivery he faced, was struck on the pad by the eighth and was cut into half by the tenth. Two balls later, though, he hit a gorgeous straight drive off Verma and followed up that boundary with a shot driven straight into the stumps at the other end.
Amol Muzumdar, Mumbai's captain, chose to attack him with Iqbal Abdulla. With a silly point and short leg in place, Abdulla pushed through deliveries on the middle-stump line. Dravid let a few to turn past him and jabbed at one which flew to the non-existent backward short leg.
Powar came on from the pavilion end and Dravid used the crease well, going back to create the length for his dabs. After a few deliveries that turned in from outside off came one similar to the ball that got him out in the first innings: the ball landed on the middle and off stump and spun in as Dravid leaned forward to defend. However, on this occasion, the turn was slow and allowed Dravid the time to roll his wrists over the ball and play it just short of backward short leg. The next one was a lovely flighted delivery that dipped rapidly causing Dravid to check his drive.
Dravid went into a mini-shell after that, stuck on 19 as he played out 14 deliveries, before he asserted himself against Powar: twice in succession he waltzed down the track to swing flighted deliveries over long-on, forcing Powar out of the attack.
There was solid support from Pawan who, by then, batting fluently. When Powar shortened the length, Pawan was quick to pull. One such shot fell agonisingly beyond the outstretched hand of Wasim Jaffer, who had run in too far from deep midwicket before heading back. Undeterred by that close shave, Pawan pulled another short delivery over Jaffer's head for the first six by a Karnataka batsman in the match.
The duo continued to consolidate in the last session - 47 runs came in 22 overs - as proceedings slowly grinded to a halt.
Earlier, Kumar was rewarded for his fuller length, and his day's figures read 6-1-13-3. Agarkar fell first, trapped in front as he played across the line, Vinayak Samant went to a fatal flirt outside off stump for Thilak Naidu to hold a fine diving catch to his right and the left-handed Abdulla was caught plumb in front to a delivery that straightened.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo