Pandey 119 sets up intriguing last day
Karnataka 251 and 287 for 8 (Pandey 119, Samarth 75) lead Mumbai 269 (Lad 93, Khan 48) by 264 runs
Having started 34 runs short of Karnataka's 251 on the third day, Mumbai would have hoped to take a quick lead and chase a target on the fourth day if they could restrict the hosts. They managed the lead, but the in-form Manish Pandey cracked an aggressive 119- his 13th first-class ton- with 13 fours and two sixes to turn the tide of the match.
Pandey scored his second consecutive hundred, his fourth of the season, and his third overall against Mumbai in as many matches, to propel the team to 250. Karnataka's charge, however, was halted once he handed a low catch to Wasim Jaffer at slip. Pandey's dismissal led to two more wickets in the next half hour, as Karnataka ended on 287 for 8, with a lead of 269.
Lokesh Rahul couldn't open when Karnataka came out to bat after a suspected groin injury kept him off the field on the second day. Instead, Karun Nair moved up the order and scored slowly before Javed Khan struck with a double blow. With two consecutive deliveries, he had Nair caught behind for 7 and dismantled Shreyas Gopal's stumps to leave Karnataka on 32 for 2.
Pandey, however, eased his side's nerves with a flurry of boundaries that took them to 75 for 2 at lunch, by scoring at well over four an over with 32 off 19. Ravikumar Samarth provided ample support at the other end, making his way to a brisk 35 off 42 on the back of a few fluent drives and flicks to the boundary.
Pandey scored 71 runs in the second session, and along with Samarth, took Karnataka to safety. He pulled and drove with authority, hitting mostly square of the wicket, after smacking two sixes down the ground after lunch. With the morning cloud cover gone, batting became easier, as the two put on 133 for the third wicket.
Samarth's fifty on debut ended, however, when he was trapped by a low delivery from Kaustubh Pawar. Karnataka also lost C Gautam before tea when he drove Shardul Thakur only to be caught by Suryakumar Yadav at first slip.
Pandey batted a little cautiously after tea with Stuart Binny and Rahul, who came in at No. 7, but two wickets apiece from Vishal Dabholkar and Saurabh Netravalkar in the last session brought Mumbai back in the game.
Binny was caught by a diving Javed at long-off, and Vinay Kumar was out lbw by Netravalkar from round the wicket by a delivery that came in sharply. Two overs later, Rahul slashed to drag a wide delivery outside off onto his stumps, which reduced Karnataka to 276 for 8.
Abhimanyu Mithun, like Vinay on the second day, also hurt his ankle but he was padded up and according to his team-mate Samarth, might even bat and bowl on the final day.
"Mithun is fine. Yes, he had an ankle problem and he will bat tomorrow," Samarth said. The opener scored 75 with ten attacking boundaries and was happy to capitalise on the "loose balls" offered by the Mumbai bowlers.
"We got a lot of loose balls," Samarth said. "If you get set on the wicket, it's difficult to get you out unless it's a pretty good ball." This means the Karnataka bowlers may also find it tough to limit the Mumbai batsmen on the last day.
Earlier, Mumbai took a first-innings lead in the first session, adding 52 to their overnight score of 217 for 7, though Javed fell short of his maiden fifty and Siddhesh Lad missed his maiden hundred. Delaying the new ball by an over, Vinay had Pandey roll his arm and had Javed caught at slip, ending their crucial 80-run eighth-wicket stand. As soon as Mumbai took the lead, HS Sharath had Saurabh Netravalkar caught behind with the new ball, and just when Lad thought of stretching the visitors' advantage, he also edged back.
Sharath eventually finished with 5 for 57, his third five-for in first-class cricket, to restrict Mumbai's lead to 18.
Lad conceded that his innings was important for the team and that his prior experience of playing with Thakur and Javed helped their partnerships.
"It was necessary for me to stay on the wicket and I was confident while playing with Shardul and Javed because I've played with them since Under-15 age," Lad said. "I had confidence in them and it worked."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo