Maharashtra 256 for 3 (Gugale 91, Jadhav 39*) trail Haryana 335 by 79 runs
Scorecard

Opener Swapnil Gugale's 91 on yet another rain-curtailed day has put Maharashtra on course to take a first-innings lead and start their season with three points against Haryana. Play was stopped in Gahunje just before tea on the penultimate day with hosts Maharashtra 256 for 3, only 79 runs behind Haryana's first innings total of 335.

Claiming the lead might not be quite so straightforward with heavier rain predicted on the final day. The unbeaten batsmen Kedar Jadhav and Ankit Bawne, were quite aggressive during their 76-run partnership, and would be hoping for at least an hour's play tomorrow to push Maharashtra ahead.

The day, however, clearly belonged to Gugale. He had debuted in 2010-11, got a duck and did not play the rest of the season. After a few years in the wilderness, he broke through in 2014-15 with 596 runs at 54.18, including a century in the semi-final against Tamil Nadu. He had come in midway through the season and ended up with the highest average.

Gugale began cautiously today, taking his time to gauge the pace and adjusting to the lesser bounce on the pitch. He saw off the pace of Ashish Hooda, the standout bowler for Haryana, before getting into gear with some lovely drives.

Jayant Yadav, on a high after impressing for India A against the touring Bangladeshis last week, was introduced after drinks but Gugale didn't let him settle. He laced a four through cover and followed it up with a paddle sweep to the fine leg boundary. Next over, he charged down the wicket and struck medium-pacer Sachin Rana over his head and into the sight screen. Gugale completed the assault by hoicking Yadav into the stands beyond long-on just before lunch.

Gugale had scored 174 against Delhi last season and memories of that knock may have come up for Virender Sehwag, now leading Haryana. But, Hooda was eventually rewarded for his discipline as Gugale edged one to keeper Nitin Saini just after entering into the nineties.

Gugale was glad to have started the season with a good knock which wiil give him "enough confidence to avoid second-season blues." but was disappointed to have missed out on a three-figure mark.

"A hundred is, after all, a hundred," he said after the day's play was called off ten minutes before scheduled close. "It would have been better to leave home for four consecutive away games with a hundred at home but it wasn't to be. Hopefully I can make amends in the coming games."

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo