Jharkhand stay ahead of Mumbai
Jharkhand 351 & 176 for 5 (Jaggi 51*) lead Mumbai 265 (Tare 67, Yadav 63, Hiken 58, Aaron 4-42) by 262 runs
How the mighty have fallen. Not only have defending champions Mumbai conceded a substantial first-innings lead to bottom-placed Jharkhand, they could also lose this one outright. However, if they dismiss Jharkhand quickly on the final morning, if they go after a minimum 260-plus target, and if they chase it down, they will still come out with a win, but that is a lot of ifs. The third day belonged almost entirely to Jharkhand in their first Ranji game against Mumbai.
Mumbai started the day 141 behind with their last specialist batting pair of Suryakumar Yadav and Hiken Shah at the crease. Jharkhand sent both back within 45 minutes. And, encouragingly for Jharkhand, it was not Varun Aaron who did it. Hiken was bowled through the gate trying a drive against the legspinner Samar Quadri after having swept the bowler for four. Yadav went in the next over, trying a weak drive against seamer Shankar Rao and edging to second slip, where substitute Rahul Shukla took his second sharp catch of the innings. Mumbai were 236 for 7 now, and they had no Saurabh Tiwary to nearly double that score.
Aaron, used in short, sharp bursts again, now intimidated the three Mumbai quick bowlers. He bounced out Javed Khan, had Shardul Thakur pop a leading edge to mid-off and broke Akbar Khan's bowling hand with a lifter. Mumbai finished not only 86 behind in the first innings, but also a bowler short, albeit an utterly unimpressive one. Akbar had been swatted for 22 runs in an over by Tiwary on the second morning during a return of 0 for 54 in ten overs.
Not that Javed and Thakur went on the rampage in contrast. They allowed Jharkhand's openers to add a solid 65 before captain Nayar himself delivered the breakthrough, having Rameez Nemat edge to first slip. Then there was a mix-up between Bhavik Thaker and Bhavin Thakkar that led to only Thakkar remaining in the middle. Thakkar then pushed left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar to silly point. At 91 for 3, and given Jharkhand's shaky batting this season, Mumbai might have hoped for a collapse but it wasn't coming.
Instead, Ishank Jaggi and Tiwary blunted the pressure with a quick partnership of 75. Jaggi hit a flurry of boundaries soon after he came in, helped by Thakur's wayward lines. Thakur had claimed Jaggi for 5 in the first innings, but this time, he kept offering him width and was punched for several fours. Solid and stylish, Jaggi easily outscored Tiwary, who edged a drive off Javed to the keeper to depart for 38, exactly 200 fewer than what he made in the first innings.
Soon after, Jaggi survived a very confident caught-behind shout off Dabholkar and proceeded to clamp down on the scoring for the last half-hour. Jharkhand wicketkeeper Pappu Singh had blocked to 14 off 85 in the first innings and repeated the approach as both batsmen played for stumps.
Mumbai then showed a belated glimpse of their champion status. Sensing another late wicket, they targeted Pappu, posting as many as seven catching fielders around the bat. Javed came back from the listless start and bowled a probing final over. Pappu shouldered arms to the last ball of the day, but it jagged in to take off stump.
Mumbai have five more wickets to take, though, and a sizeable chase on their hands if they want to earn their fourth outright win of the season. Jharkhand, promoted from Group C and with three points from five games, have already achieved more than what they would have hoped for at the home ground of the 40-time champions. Aaron said they'll see how the first hour pans out on the final morning before firming up their approach for the rest of the day. But he also added that Jharkhand would be satisfied with the three points a draw will ensure.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo