Nayar hundred takes Mumbai past 500
Mumbai 524 for 6 (Jaffer 150, Nayar 122*, Tendulkar 108) v Baroda
The presence of a possible sixth day and the flat nature of the Wankhede pitch meant both Mumbai and Baroda set themselves up for the long haul in their Ranji Trophy quarter-final. Baroda stayed away from claiming the third new ball, and Mumbai showed no intent to go for quick runs and declare the innings closed: 252 runs came on the second day for the loss of three wickets, with final session representing a near ceasefire.
However, that shouldn't take away from another stellar effort from Mumbai's most valuable player, Abhishek Nayar, who crossed 50 for the 10th time this season, converted it into a third century, and ended unbeaten on 852 runs, the fifth-highest tally this season. Three of the four mean ahead of him are already out of the tournament. Nayar has also fielded superbly and picked up 16 wickets to go with his runs.
Mumbai began the day at 272 for 3 with Wasim Jaffer unbeaten on 137, but Jaffer never quite got going. After two dropped chances, Jaffer played on to be dismissed for 150. Mumbai were 286 for 4 then, and still needed runs to feel comfortable on a pitch that didn't have much for the bowlers. Enter Nayar, who provided them momentum even as nightwatchman Dhawal Kulkarni enjoyed his rare chance at blocking and playing like a proper batsman.
Kulkarni never looked in much trouble, but the runs on the slow pitch came off Nayar's bat. He began sweeping and reverse-sweeping to distraction. Kulkarni grew a little adventurous, hit a straight six, and fell at the team score of 356 to bring in the last recognised batsman, wicketkeeper Aditya Tare. Tare, too, had a tough time scoring runs at the start, but Nayar kept manipulating fields with shots and style entirely his own. Against spin he played all kinds of sweeps, against pace he moved across and worked the ball to leg.
Nayar scored 20 off the first 29 balls he faced, then moved to 42 off 62, and brought up the fifty with a nudge to leg. Immediately he reverse-swept a four to celebrate. While Tare persevered to score 31 off 102, Nayar went fluently and had reached 78 off 122. Baroda were trying to defend, but it was difficult to do so against the dexterous Nayar.
Tare quickened up, brought up his fifty, but fell in the final session for 64. Nayar was 94 then off 155 balls, a healthy strike rate on a slow pitch, Mumbai were 479 for 6, but with more than 20 overs to go in the day they changed their strategy. Against deep-set fields Mumbai endeavoured to come back on the third day for no further loss, and Baroda tried to minimise damage, presumably, before they take new ball with bowlers fresh on a fresh day.
Over the next 21.4 overs, only 45 runs came without any incident. Nayar added only 28 off 62 balls over that period, bringing up his 11th first-class hundred in the process, but indications were that he wasn't done yet.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo