Mumbai 5 for 0 and 411 need another 251 runs to beat Tamil Nadu 305 and 356 for 6 dec (Indrajith 138, Abhinav 122)
Centuries from B Indrajith and captain Abhinav Mukund led Tamil Nadu's frenetic push for runs, before they declared their innings late on the fourth evening 255 ahead; they were pushing for an outright win, having conceded the first-innings lead on the third day. Facing five tricky overs before stumps, Mumbai's openers, Praful Waghela and 17-year-old debutant Prithvi Shaw, defended stoutly to end an absorbing day on 5 for 0.
Mumbai's first-innings total was revised to 411 when they were awarded five penalty runs due to Tamil Nadu's batsmen running on the pitch in the 74th over. That meant their target became 251 from the 256 Tamil Nadu had set.
Having entered the fourth day with a 101-run deficit, Tamil Nadu had to make the play and they didn't falter. Their top order ensured there was no let up in momentum at any stage, and by the time the innings was declared close, their run-rate was 4.56. Mumbai's fielding, on the other hand, was patchy after it was put under pressure once too often.
Tamil Nadu bristled with intent right from the outset, with openers Abhinav and debutant Ganga Sridhar Raju alternating between running tight singles and scoring fluent boundaries. Raju played a few cuts and a cute-looking tuck off his pad, while Abhinav unfurled the upper cut, one of his favourite strokes, for a four.
They showed restraint wherever necessary, though. When Abhishek Nayar tried to tempt Raju outside off, the batsman left well and played out a maiden. However, in the 13th over, when Raju was tempted the second time, he slashed at Nayar but the ball went over a wide second slip. Meanwhile, Abhinav, unlike in the first innings, stood well outside the crease to neutralise the swing, and drove powerfully whenever the ball was in his range.
While the run rate hovered around three in the first half of the morning session - Tamil Nadu were on 60 for no loss in 20 overs - Indrajith's arrival, after Raju was trapped in front by Balwinder Sandhu, amped up the innings. Indrajith, promoted ahead of Kaushik Gandhi, threw Mumbai's spin duo - offspinner Akshay Girap and left-armer Vijay Gohil - off gear. While he didn't predetermine the charge, he often stepped out to drive the ball, and in the process played with the bowlers' lengths and minds. When they adjusted by landing the ball short, he went back and whipped it powerfully off his hips.
Strangely, Mumbai didn't persist with their seamers enough in the first session - although Sandhu bowled 10 overs, Nayar and Shardul Thakur, their most successful bowlers in the first innings, bowled only four and five overs respectively. Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit later reasoned that they had to be discontinued as they weren't able to check the flow of runs. Abhinav and Indrajith, meanwhile, wiped out the deficit and took Tamil Nadu to 124 for 1, with Indrajith scoring 41 at nearly a run-a-ball by lunch.
Mumbai spread out the field in the second session - at one stage, they only had four fielders not in deep positions - and introduced part-time spinners like Siddhesh Lad. They also bowled wide of off stump and the left-arm spinner Gohil tried to land his deliveries on the rough outside leg stump in an attempt to choke the scoring. While they strung together a few quiet overs, Tamil Nadu invariably managed to find release through a few boundaries. Mumbai were also hurt by their fielding lapses, as Abhinav was let off twice in successive deliveries in the 42nd over. First, Tare missed a stumping off Gohil, who then fluffed a return chance off the next delivery.
Abhinav completed his fourth hundred of the season, and, by the time he slashed a catch to slip in the pursuit of quick runs, he and Indrajith had put on 185 runs. Dinesh Karthik walked in at No. 4, and his fidgety, street-smart presence accelerated the pace of scoring. An over after he was warned for running on the pitch, Karthik carted Sandhu for three slog-swept boundaries. Karthik also forced the fielding side to make mistakes by attempting a few impossible runs; on one occasion, he had backed up too far and had given up, but the throw from backward point missed the stumps at the non-striker's end.
Indrajith, meanwhile, completed his fourth first-class hundred, and an over after Karthik's dismissal - his uppish cut off Sandhu was caught at point - had a reprieve as his miscued hoick was dropped by Lad. Vijay Shankar came in next and tonked the bowling, too, but, during a tense passage of play that was marked by frequent conversations involving players from both sides and the umpires, he was penalised for having run on the danger area. That, however, didn't seem to affect Shankar and Indrajith, who scored the bulk of the 39 runs that Tamil Nadu made in the last four overs they faced before the declaration.