Rayudu ton swells ROI lead to 413
Rest of India 526 and 296 for 4 (Rayudu 118*, Tiwary 69) lead Mumbai 409 by 413 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Rest of India tightened their hold over the Irani Cup, a trophy they've won for seven straight seasons, by consolidating the dominant position they had reached after gaining a 117-run lead in the first innings. They stretched that advantage to 413 by the close on the fourth day, with Ambati Rayudu throwing his hat into the ring for a middle-order slot as the selectors meet on Sunday to pick the squad for the Australia Tests, scoring an attractive century after falling short in the first innings.
The Mumbai bowling lacked the ammunition needed to fight back in the second innings, their spinners unable to support an already depleted pace attack. Dhawal Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur got some early movement, and Abhishek Nayar continued to give Manoj Tiwary a torrid time, but the pressure created by a couple of early wickets gradually wore off with the introduction of spin, with persistent attempts to bowl a leg-stump line failing to contain the flow of runs as the batsmen improvised.
Kulkarni and Nayar didn't bowl after lunch, and from then until the close there were just eight overs of pace. "I didn't bowl because the two spinners were bowling well," Kulkarni said at the end of the day's play. "They were containing runs and there was no need for me to bowl." In the 60 overs bowled after lunch, Rest of India scored at a healthy rate of 3.4. Sachin Tendulkar was off the field all day, but Kulkarni said he was "perfectly fine," and that there were no fitness issues.
M Vijay and Sreesanth, the overnight batsmen, weren't made to work hard in the first half hour. Sreesanth, the nightwatchman, looked sound against the Mumbai seamers but was run out, with his partner sharing the bulk of the blame. In the 18th over off Thakur, Vijay refused a second run when it was clearly on, took the strike and called for a risky single off the last ball to try to retain strike for the next over. Rohit Sharma scored a direct hit from short cover to catch Sreesanth short, and the dismissal seemed to play on Vijay's mind as he spooned a catch to gully next ball, only to be dropped, but eventually fell, playing a loose drive to extra cover.
Tiwary and Rayudu put together a century-stand to help Rest of India recover, but not before Tiwary appeared clueless in a spirited spell from Nayar, his nemesis in recent times. Nayar bowls around 120kmph, sometimes even less, but Tiwary looked vulnerable against him from the outset, unable to read his lines, leaving one that almost kissed off stump, shuffling way across, rapped in front of the stumps against an inswinger, poking at the ones that held their line outside off and inside-edging a couple that darted back in. He played out a spell of 21 dot balls, ended unsurprisingly by an inside edge that fetched a couple, and would have been relieved when Nayar took himself out of the attack after lunch, paving the way for a release against spin.
Rayudu, in the meantime, was a contrast at the other end, fluent, just as he had been in the first innings, and got going with a flick and a couple of neat off-drives on the up against Thakur. Rayudu was harsh against the seamers down the ground and countered the leg-stump line bowled by Ankeet Chavan and Vishal Dabholkar, Mumbai's left-arm spinners, by stepping out, lofting them inside out or going straight through the V.
Chavan was struck for a six over long-off, then threaded through a narrow gap between two short covers, as Rayudu marched into the nineties and brought up his 14th first-class hundred, and his second of the season, with a slash off Thakur past point. The man who congratulated him from the other end was Suresh Raina, fresh from a century of his own in the first innings and higher in the pecking order to be considered for a slot in the Indian Test batting line-up.
Tiwary overcame his early struggles to reach a half-century, dispatching the left-arm spinners for three sixes, before top-edging an attempted sweep to be caught by slip. Rayudu and Raina feasted on a generous offering from Dabholkar and Chavan, who were smacked for 10 sixes in all on the fourth day, leaving the Ranji champions deflated in pursuit of a title they haven't won since 1997-98.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo