Rohit century puts Mumbai on brink of victory
Rajasthan 204 and 63 for 4 (Kulkarni 2-16) trail Mumbai 307and 305 for 7 dec (Rohit 128, Kukreja 83, Pankaj 4-83) by 346 runs
Rohit Sharma cracked a century in one session to put Mumbai in sights of a big outright win. Chasing 409, Rajasthan tottered at 63 for 4 at stumps on day three. Mumbai extended their 103-run first-innings lead through Rohit and Sahil Kukreja's 171-run stand and declared at tea.
It was a slow beginning for Mumbai in the morning as Rajasthan delivered four maidens in the first half hour. This included the wicket-maiden from Pankaj Singh, who forced Amol Muzumdar to edge an easy catch to slip. But Rohit broke the shackles, cover-driving and pulling his way to three fours in Pankaj's third over. His aggression rubbed off on Kukreja, who came up with a wristy on-drive for his first four.
In Pankaj's next over Rohit came up with the shot of the day: the ball came in after pitching on length and he flicked it like a paint brush on canvas to square-leg boundary. He finished the over with three more fours on the off side.
Rohit's first eight scoring shots were boundaries. Unlike in the first innings, when Rohit stroked his way to a half-century, this time he looked more imposing and dangerous.
The Rajasthan bowlers, unlike on the opening day, lacked pace as well as movement. To make matters worse they were bowling to the batsmen's strengths. Even spinners Gajendra Singh and Ashok Meenaria failed to make use of the ample turn off the pitch, which Ramesh Powar had exploited the previous day.
Gajendra struggled to find any loop, and was replaced after a five-over spell by the Meenaria, a part-time legspinner. Rohit moved closer to his century with two fours and a six against him.
After a few anxious moments in the 90s, Rohit pulled Gajendra with ease over midwicket to his second century for Mumbai.
Rajasthan finally managed to remove Kukreja and Rohit after lunch, but the game was already out of their hands. Mumbai bowlers showed no mercy: Dhawal Kulkarni, who had bagged a maiden five-for in the first innings, struck in his first over when Vineet Saxena, Rajasthan's top-scorer in the first innings, decided to leave alone what he imagined was an outgoing delivery. Instead it darted in and knocked the bails off.
Nikhil Doru was dropped on 5 by Wasim Jaffer, but he failed to make use of the life as he was trapped plumb on his back leg by Usman Malvi. Then Rajasthan lost their key batsman Venugopal Rao, who edged an away-going delivery from Kulkarni only to be caught brilliantly at gully by Ajinkya Rahane, diving to his wrong side. Powar removed Shubhanshu Vijay, who tried off an off break that climbed on him and was caught at short leg.
With an entire day's play in hand Mumbai will aim to wrap up matters quickly as Rajasthan stare at a big defeat.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo