Dhawal Kulkarni's six-for and Abhishek Nayar's unbeaten 45 led Mumbai to a tense two-wicket win on the third day against Tamil Nadu, to start their title defense in Lahli. Once Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 185, Mumbai stuttered on their way to chase 97, being 35 for 5 at one point, before Nayar saw them through.
Mumbai had a shaky start to their chase, as Aswin Christ removed the openers and K Vignesh got rid of Kaustubh Pawar, Armaan Jaffer and Suryakumar Yadav, leaving Mumbai still 62 adrift with five wickets left. Nayar, who was promoted from No. 7 to 5, held one end with a brisk innings. He got brief support from Aditya Tare's 23-ball stay, but Crist had the captain caught behind after the team crossed 50. Kulkarni was then caught behind off Vignesh, before Balwinder Sandhu's eighth-wicket stand of 30 with Nayar took the score to 90. Sandhu fell for 12, but Nayar, on his 33rd birthday, used five fours and two sixes to earn six points for Mumbai.
Tamil Nadu started their day on 153 for 6, ahead by only 64, and could add only 32 more as Kulkarni ran through the tail. B Aparajith, who was on 15 overnight, kept resisting, but ran out of partners. He was unbeaten on 28 as Kulkarni dismissed J Kousik, Christ, M Mohammed and Rahil Shah. Kulkarni finished with his 13th five-for in first-class cricket, and maiden match haul of 10 wickets, his 6 for 47 having come on the back of 4 for 31 in the first innings.
Uttar Pradesh were left with a daunting task to save the match after conceding a first-innings lead to Madhya Pradesh and being asked to follow on in Hyderabad.
Bowled out for 176 in the first innings, UP ended the day at 118 for 2, still trailing Madhya Pradesh by 171 runs. Opener Tanmay Srivastava (60*) and Sarfaraz Khan (18) were at the crease, having added 38. A call on whether Suresh Raina can bat will be taken on the morning of the final day. Raina is recovering from a mild fever and didn't bat in the first innings.
Wicketkeeper Eklavya Dwivedi was the top-scorer in UP's first innings with 37, while Kuldeep Yadav made 36. MP's new-ball pair of Ishwar Pandey (3 for 65) and Gaurav Yadav (4 for 44) did bulk of the damage. Gaurav had last played for Madhya Pradesh in November 2014.
Gujarat made slow progress, but were still in the fight for the first-innings lead against Baroda after half-centuries from Bhargav Merai (70) and Manpreet Juneja (66 not out), in Jaipur. They went into stumps on 277 for 4, still needing 267 runs to pocket three points.
Their hopes will hinge largely on Juneja and Rujul Bhatt (38 not out), who shared an unbroken 100-run stand after the Pandya brothers - Krunal and Hardik - removed Merai and Parthiv Patel, the captain, in quick succession to leave Gujarat at 177 for 4. Irfan Pathan was wicketless, while Munaf Patel had one.
Railways consolidated their position against Punjab with a 116-run lead on the third day in Delhi. Shivakant Shukla, who made 128 in the first innings, built a solid opening stand with Saurabh Wakaskar, before the latter retired hurt on 56. Shukla ended the day unbeaten on 86, with Railways at 180 for 2 in their second innings.
Earlier, Punjab, who resumed on 154 for 4, added only 61 to their overnight total as medium-pacer Manjeet Singh Choudhary picked up three of the six wickets to fall, including the wickets of Gurkeerat Singh Mann (66) and Uday Kaul (61). Choudhary finished with 4 for 56, while Anureet Singh and Deepak Bansal picked up two wickets apiece.