Marathon Kotak knock frustrates Mumbai
Saurashtra 465 for 9 (Kotak 162*, Jadeja 87, Pujara 63, Hussain 4-93, Mangela 4-97) v Mumbai
At the start of the day Shitanshu Kotak stood between Mumbai and their push for a semi-final spot. At stumps Kotak was still standing tall - unbeaten on 162 - and Mumbai's prospects were rapidly fading with the evening sun as Saurashtra piled up 465 for 9.
Mumbai's fate is now dependent on how Delhi, who are on the same number of points as them, fare in their game against Tamil Nadu. Delhi ended Day 2 three runs short of a first-innings lead and Mumbai will have to bat out of their skins to do the same here and stay in the hunt.
Their hopes would have risen in the first session when Mun Mangela bowled a probing spell to remove Cheteshwar Pujara, Nikhil Rathod and Jaydev Shah in quick succession as Saurashtra slipped to 245 for 5. Those hopes were dashed as Kotak, with frequent use of the dead bat, painstakingly notched up his highest first-class score. The statistics tell the story: he faced 514 balls in 747 minutes.
After a forgettable first day, when he was unable to hit the right areas and was warned twice for running on the wicket, Mangela redeemed himself with a spell that read 10-3-24-3. He didn't get the ball to straighten but extracted lift off the pitch and got the ball to cut into the right-handed batsmen. Pujara was late in moving forward and was cleaned up by an incutter, Rathod perished jabbing a rising delivery and Shah was squared up and fell edging a full delivery that left him. It appeared Mumbai had found an unlikely escape route, but Kotak slammed the door shut.
Keeping Kotak company was the adventurous Ravindra Jadeja, who could not have found a better time to post his highest first-class score. The pair added 154 in 209 minutes, Jadeja hitting a relatively breezy 87 with the help of 11 fours and two towering sixes. He was initially circumspect, playing and missing a few against Mangela and Murtuza Hussain, but repeatedly waltzed down the track to the spinners with some attacking strokes.
Meanwhile, Kotak kept things simple, shuffling into line and defending stoutly. He had started the day positively with a couple of off-driven fours but Mangela's triple-strike changed his mindset. Mumbai tried everything: the seamers went over and around the wicket, bowled some full, some short, and the spinners experimented with their trajectory, but Kotak could not be dislodged.
In the late afternoon, Ramesh Powar kept a short fine-leg and a backward square leg and tried to get him to top-edge his sweeps. Kotak, surprisingly, went for a few sweep shots but - less surprisingly - he kept them along the ground. Nilesh Kulkarni floated the balls across with a short cover and a short extra cover but the ball never took the aerial route.
He did make two mistakes but Mumbai reprieved him on each occasion. On 96, with the team total on 260 for 5, he inside-edged a Murtuza delivery from around the stumps but Vinayak Samant couldn't hold on to a tough chance. When on 156, Ajinkya Rahane, at point, dropped a sitter off Mangela's bowling.
After the fall of Rakesh Dhurv - who hung around for nearly an hour following Jadeja's dimissal - Mangela and Hussain picked up a couple of quick wickets but by then, Kotak had taken Saurashtra to safety and, in all likelihood, to a semi-final spot.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo