Odisha fight to prevent innings defeat
Odisha 115 for 2 (Rout 43) and 256 (Natraj 130, Javed 4-53) trail Mumbai 501 for 9 dec by 130 runs
Mumbai forced Odisha to follow on after dismissing the remaining seven first-innings wickets in the first half of the fourth day, but lacked energy later on as Odisha reached 115 for 2 at stumps. Both wickets went to Pravin Tambe after he switched ends. The debutant legspinner had bowled 14 wicket-less overs till then from the press-box end.
Govind Podder had cruised to 42, and Odisha to 83, when he edged Tambe to the wicketkeeper to give him his maiden first-class wicket. Eight overs later, Girjia Rout yorked himself as he charged down the pitch to be stumped for 43 as Tambe found better control in his last spell of 10-5-22-2, after struggling to find the right length earlier. He was cheered on from friends and family in the MCA pavilion, right behind him.
However, first-innings centurion Natraj Behera ensured that Odisha ended the day without further loss. They now need 130 more runs to make Mumbai bat again, and possibly, stop the home team from taking points for an outright win.
Odisha, though, would be haunted by their first-innings batting performance. On a flat pitch, their batsmen's inclination for aggression went against them. In the morning, Abhilash Mallick tried to clip a shortish ball from off stump to the leg side, but got a leading edge to mid-on. Biplab Samantray, the Odisha captain, appeared extremely comfortable during his 34-ball 39, but pulled straight into the hands of deep square leg.
Apart from Natraj, and Basant Mohanty, no one showed the will to stay in the middle for long. Natraj conceded that the batsmen were dismissed playing rash shots and added, "It's rare that we get a wicket like this. In the last three years, I have not played on a batting track like this. The batsmen got excited and tried to score too many, and made mistakes."
But unlike others, Natraj carried on to his second successive Ranji century with a calm clip to midwicket. It was only one of the 22 runs he ran, as he smashed 24 fours and two sixes in his 184-ball stay.
In one Vishal Dabholkar over, he hit two sixes and two fours to scamper to 89. Tambe was introduced in the 26th over of the morning, but he was hit through point for a couple of boundaries. Natraj then reached his fifth first-class century, off his 144th delivery, in Tambe's next over. He was finally dismissed for 130, caught behind off Javed Khan, after a 77-run stand with Mohanty.
Bowling with a rejigged run-up - which he attributed to Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan - Javed was the leader of the seam attack that accounted for eight of the ten wickets.
"Paaji [Sachin Tendulkar] and Zaheer helped me with my bowling," Javed said. "After the first match, they said if you reduce your run-up, it will help you get control and better rhythm in your bowling. I have been consistently working on that aspect."
Since most of Mumbai's success has come through pace, Javed will have a big role to play if Mumbai are to wrap this tie up early on the fourth day.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo