Salvi's five-for gives Mumbai advantage
On a frenetic day when 15 wickets fell, Mumbai exhibited their famed big-match temperament to recover from the first-day blip and become frontrunners for yet another Ranji Trophy. The final had been shifted to the minor cricketing centre of Mysore to back Karnataka's strongest suit, their fast bowlers, but the plan backfired spectacularly on a topsy-turvy second day as Mumbai's seam attack, led by Aavishkar Salvi, shot out the hosts for half their previous lowest total of the season.
A spirited burst from Abhimanyu Mithun reduced Mumbai to 51 for 5 and levelled the game a little after tea, but for the second time in two days, the tenacity of the visitors' lower-order frustrated Karnataka. Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni played out more than 20 overs - a remarkable effort given the conditions - to stretch the lead past 200.
In the morning, on the type of pitch that tops fast bowlers' wish-lists, Ajit Agarkar and Kulkarni rapped the Karnataka batsmen on the pads often and had them nicking repeatedly just short of the slip cordon. But they only had the wicket of nightwatchman R Vinay Kumar to show for their effort before Salvi's spell transformed the game. First, he had G Satish edging to third slip. Next ball, the highly-rated Manish Pandey was trapped lbw by a delivery that held its line. At that time, Salvi's figures were 5-5-0-2.
In his next over, KB Pawan, the only Karnataka batsman to show some grit, drove firmly towards cover where the burly Ramesh Powar flung himself forward to pluck a low catch. The home team's innings was in shambles at 58 for 5. The crowd had boisterously echoed any Mumbai appeal that was turned down earlier in the morning, but once wickets started falling in a hurry, close calls were only greeted with relieved silence. With the top order failing, the opposition fast bowlers on the money, and a difficult pitch to negotiate, the Rahul Dravid-sized hole in the inexperienced Karnataka batting was rarely more palpable.
There was to be no Mumbai-like lower-order revival for Karnataka. Stuart Binny's aggressive approach - slashing his second ball for four after being greeted first up by a 139ks bouncer - raised hopes of a recovery, but he was run out after finding himself at the same end as his partner CM Gautam in the final over before lunch, to round off a horror first session for Karnataka.
Gautam and Sunil Joshi fell in the space of three deliveries in the second session, and Abhimanyu Mithun became Salvi's fifth victim soon after. Despite an under-par score in their first dig, Mumbai had an unexpected 103-run first-innings cushion. It was the first time all season that Karnataka were in serious trouble, and when Wasim Jaffer started off with two crisp off-driven fours in the first over, Mumbai looked set to press the advantage against a demoralised home side.
Mithun had other ideas, though. He had been guilty of not making the batsman play the new ball enough in the first innings, but there was no rerun of that mistake, the second time. Jaffer looked to drive Mithun's fifth delivery, a wide full ball, and could only nick it to the 'keeper. He picked another massive wicket with the first delivery of his next over, Rahane falling in the same manner as his captain, flirting with a slightly shorter ball.
Mithun was then on a hat-trick after snaring Omkar Khanvilkar first ball: struck in front of middle and off as he looked to defend. Mumbai were 18 for 3, and the crowd was chanting Mithun's name. He didn't get his second hat-trick of the season, however, because Nayar survived despite being comprehensively beaten by a delivery angling across him.
At the other end, Sahil Kukreja was barely managing to avoid his second failure of the match. He was dropped twice off Vinay, and inside-edged one delivery low onto his back pad, just about escaping being bowled. He and Nayar survived the eight overs to tea.
Two balls into the final session, however, Kukreja inside-edged Vinay to short leg to fall for a painstaking 13. Vinayak Samant was the next to go, taking his eyes off a short one from Mithun that popped off his glove to short leg.
Kulkarni was surprisingly sent ahead of Agarkar and Powar, but he and Nayar blunted the home side's bowling. Vinay was taken out of the attack after a ten-over spell, and Mithun was also tiring. Some sensible batting from Mumbai kept Karnataka at bay, and when Vinay was brought back for a final burst before stumps, Kulkarni slammed five boundaries in two overs to boost the score past 100.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo