Mumbai on the brink of elimination
Mumbai 187 for 2 (Rahane 83, Muzumdar 86*) trail Saurashtra 484 (Kotak 168*, Mangela 5-105) by 297 runs
Saurashtra moved closer to a spot in the final four on a meandering third day at the Wankhede Stadium as Mumbai, who have all but missed out on a semi-final spot, crawled along without any risks to close 297 behind their opposition.
In the morning, Mun Munegala didn't take long to remove Sandeep Maniar for his fifth wicket of the innings and terminate Saurashtra's marathon effort at 484. Shitanshu Kotak was left unbeaten after 796 minutes at the crease and entered an elite list: only five men - Rajiv Nayyar (1015), Hanif Mohammad (970), Gary Kirsten (878), Sanath Jayasuriya (799) and Leonard Hutton (797) have played more minutes in a first-class innings. But Kotak is unique in that he is the only player in that group who has not been dismissed.
In their reply, Mumbai proceeded serenely, courtesy an unbroken 148-run partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and Amol Muzumdar after being in a spot of bother at 39 for 2. Sahil Kukreja was given out lbw after a Kanaiya Vaghela delivery appeared to have struck him high while Vinit Indulkar nicked one from Sandeep Jobanputra. But Rahane and Muzumdar ensured there would be no more casualties.
Mumbai had had their share of problems against left-arm seamers this season - Delhi's Pradeep Sangwan and Maharashtra's Samad Fallah in particular, were successful earlier in the competition - as Jobanputra, Saurashtra's leading bowler with 27 wickets at the start of the game, got the ball to bend in a touch to trouble the batsmen. However, he was guilty of being a tad short in his second spell and slowly, things eased out in the middle.
Vaghela, the right-arm medium-pacer, bowled a parsimonious opening spell of 11-7-8-1, with his first seven overs being maidens but the runs started to come slowly. Rahane cover drove repeatedly to set the tone and Muzumdar worked the ball around to rotate the strike.
Muzumdar, playing in his 100th Ranji game, settled to play some forceful punches through the off side. He was reprieved once on 42 when he jumped out and edged a drive against Rakesh Dhurv but wicketkeeper Sagar Jogiyani failed to hold on or complete the stumping chance. Rahane's was a chanceless innings and he used his feet well against the spinners to push the score along.
However, with their position all but secured and the pitch flat, Saurashtra played well within their strengths. Delhi's securing a first-innings lead against Tamil Nadu - and thus having a higher quotient - means Mumbai can sneak in to the semi-finals only if Tamil Nadu pull off a minor miracle in Chennai tomorrow. Mumbai faithfuls will cling on to the fact that Delhi, chasing 105, were shot out for under 100 once in this season against Himachal Pradesh.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo