Maharashtra 330 and 187 for 5 (Khurana 63*, Khadiwale 63) lead Delhi 307 (Gambhir 94, Sehwag 66, Bhatia 65, Sanklecha 4-62) by 210 runs
Two batting collapses followed by a solid partnership in the latter half of the day ensured that the Group B match between Delhi and hosts Maharashtra remained wide open going into the last day.
Chirag Khurana's fourth successive fifty and his unbroken 105-run association for the sixth wicket with Rahul Tripathi helped Maharashtra end the day with a lead of 210 at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium. If Delhi, who conceded the first-innings lead for the first time this season, are to continue their streak of earning maximum points, they will have to stage a lower-order collapse on the last morning.
For the second morning in succession, the bowlers held an upper hand in the opening session. The Maharashtra quicks exploited the misty conditions to their advantage. But it was a reckless shot by Gautam Gambhir off Khurana's offspin that opened the floodgates.
The Delhi captain had laid perfect anchor for more than five-and-a-half hours to help Delhi start the day at 240 for 4, 90 behind Maharashtra's 330. They required Gambhir to not only get the seven runs required for his century but also continue his unbroken 91-run association with Rajat Bhatia for ensuring the lead for his side.
With a hundred in sight, Gambhir tried to hoick over cow corner off the first ball he faced from Khurana. All he could manage was a top-edge which was pouched safely by Domnic Joseph at mid-on.
Maharashtra didn't waste any opportunity in taking the new ball, due after four overs in the morning. The pace trio of Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha and Joseph then kept the ball in the channel to not let the Delhi lower order fire. Once Bhatia nicked Joseph to slips, Maharashtra were set for a sizeable lead.
But Parvinder Awana's lusty blows, including a pulled six that landed more than 20 rows back over square leg, reduced the deficit for Delhi even as Sanklecha ran through the lower order.
The Maharashtra openers started on a positive note, middling the ball consistently. Sumit Narwal gave Delhi the breakthrough by forcing an edge off Swapnil Gugale in the fourth over after lunch. Harshad Khadiwale and captain Rohit Motwani continued to score freely till the former's backfoot punch took an edge and flew to Unmukt Chand at second slip.
That opened the floodgates again as Maharashtra lost four wickets, including Khadiwale's, in 37 minutes for just one run. Motwani's attempted hook off Vikas Tokas only rested in wicketkeeper Rahul Yadav's gloves. Ankit Bawne's extravagant drive to open his account after being tied down also had the same result. Kedar Jadhav attempted a shot that was a mirror image of Motwani's, but missed the ball and was unfortunate to be adjudged caught behind.
At 82 for 5, Delhi were sensing a comeback. But Tripathi and Khurana deprived them of any further rewards. The duo's first task was to bat out the half hour remaining in the second session. They did it without a problem and put their heads down again in the last. They didn't fall prey to Delhi's attacking and hardly scored a run for the first half hour of the last session.
Once they grew in confidence, they started displaying cuts and drives at will. Khurana was the more aggressive of the pair, reaching his fifty twenty minutes before stumps. His inside-out six off Manan Sharma was the shot of the day.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo