Mumbai v MP, Ranji Trophy, Group A, Mumbai, 3rd day January 7, 2015

Naman Ojha, Bundela flatten Mumbai

Madhya Pradesh 538 for 7 (Ojha 155, Bundela 115, Abdulla 3-123) lead Mumbai 404 (Suryakumar 135, Herwadkar 97, Rawat 5-74) by 134 runs

Naman Ojha and Devendra Bundela, the Madhya Pradesh batting mainstays, taught the young Mumbai team a batting lesson to take a firm grip on the third day. Ojha [155] and Bundela's [115] record 258-run partnership helped MP end the penultimate day with a lead of 134, and with an opportunity to put the hosts under pressure on the last day at the Wankhede Stadium.

Starting the day at 221 for 3, both teams knew that the overnight 91-run partnership between the two seasoned campaigners would decide the fate of the game. The Mumbai pacers were hoping to repeat their MP counterparts' heroics on the second day and strike early in the morning.

However, Ojha and Bundela looked confident from the first over. The duo judged the line of the ball well and succeeded in leaving virtually every delivery that was pitched slightly outside off stump. At the same time, they didn't miss out on any scoring opportunities, as was displayed in the second over of the day with Bundela's straight drive off Wilkin Mota. The boundary fetched the in-form batsman his third fifty-plus score of the season.

Having converted one of the earlier two fifties into a century, Bundela knew he had to do the same if MP were to overhaul Mumbai's first innings total of 404. Same was the case with Ojha, who has been knocking on the doors of national selectors for a Test place. Even after the duo had seen off the crucial half hour and the moisture off the wicket having evaporated, they knew that the sterner test awaited them till lunch.

The new ball was available seven overs into the day's play and Mumbai didn't waste any time in taking it. However, the Mumbai pacers were not disciplined enough. While Kshemal Waingankar bowled a tight spell in the morning, Shardul Thakur missed the trick by bowling on the shorter side. Javed Khan and Mota bowled well in patches.

On the other hand, Ojha and Bundela were so determined to not play a rash shot that the Mumbai bowlers failed to break their resolve. Ojha continued his stupendous season with the bat. His back-foot punch through mid-off on the cusp of lunch fetched him his 18th first-class century.

Bundela faced some anxious moments in the nineties on the other side of the break before stepping out to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdullah for his 14th four and followed it up with a nudge to square leg to complete his 25th first-class century.  

Even after completing their centuries, both batsmen continued to test a hapless Mumbai unit's patience. All that the Mumbai team was hoping was for either of them to play a false stroke. The moment eventually arrived 43 minutes before tea when Ojha nicked Javed to Suryakumar Yadav at widish slip.

The damage had been done by then. MP were just 17 runs away from adding at least three points in their kitty while Ojha and Bundela had wiped off multiple records. Their partnership was MP's highest against Mumbai, bettering Bundela's 225-run stand with Mohnish Mishra in Indore in 2011-12. It was also the fourth-highest partnership for MP in first-class cricket, behind a 436-run stand between Abbas Ali and Prashant Dwevedi (against Railways in 1997-98), Sachin Dholpure and Ojha's 337 (against Kerala in Indore in 2005-06) and 307 by Jalaj Saxena and Ojha (against Saurashtra at Indore in 2013-14).

Twenty minutes before tea, Bundela's second run off an overthrow resulted in putting MP into the lead. It was a stupendous achievement considering MP had conceded 375 runs for just four wickets on the opening day.

Even after Bundela holed out to long-off soon after tea to give Abdullah his second wicket, Harpreet Singh continued to pile on the misery on Mumbai's bowlers.

With MP placed at 538 for 7, captain Bundela hinted at them trying to put Mumbai batsmen under pressure on the last morning. If they can do that, not only will it make the last day's play interesting but also give them a shot at their first victory of the season.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo