Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Mumbai 374 and 113 for 2 (Jaffer 30*, Parkar 9*) trail Madhya Pradesh 536 (Dubey 133, Patidar 122, Shubham 116, Mulani 5-173) by 49 runs
Madhya Pradesh are nearly there. But no one from the team or from the periphery is ready to celebrate just yet. That is because there is still one full day, offering a minimum of 95 overs left in the Ranji final. Mumbai trail by 49, with eight wickets in hand, but must find a way to not just wipe out the deficit but also get ahead, and then take the ten remaining wickets to pull off a coup.
It's improbable but Mumbai have nothing to lose, and it's this fearlessness they will try and carry forward on Sunday. Prithvi Shaw's robust second-innings 44 has given them just a glimmer, but there's a mountain to climb.
That is because Rajat Patidar and MP's lower order extended Mumbai's agony on the field to 177.2 overs in which they made 536, securing a first-innings lead of 162. Patidar was the third centurion of the innings, after Yash Dubey and Shubham Sharma. It was also the most enterprising of the three, an innings full of authority, class, and a slice of luck on 52, when he was reprieved off a no-ball on the third day.
Having shut shop after the reprieve until stumps on Friday, Patidar restored normalcy under overcast skies on Saturday, picking off runs with ease and giving a crowd of around 1500 people something to cheer about. Apart from ensuring the bad balls were put away, Patidar respected the bowling and ensured Mumbai weren't handed any chance of a comeback despite striking twice in the morning.
Parth Sahani, the debutant, was reprieved early when Shaw put down a tough chance at slip, but he was out lbw soon after to Shams Mulani, the left-arm spinner. It was largely down to Patidar from there on to steer the lower order.
When Sahani became the sixth wicket to fall, MP were just 56 ahead, but Patidar found an able ally in allrounder Saransh Jain, who hung around to support him for as long as he was around, and then brought out his shots to make a maiden half-century to extend Mumbai's misery. In all, the last four wickets added106. Mulani finished with a five-for after 63.2 overs of toil taking his wickets tally this season to 42.
Needing to start aggressively, Mumbai lived up to their side of the bargain as MP quickly went on the defensive, mindful of cutting out Shaw's scoring areas, especially the point region. Without Yashasvi Jaiswal, who spent large parts of the day off the field due to an ankle niggle, Mumbai opened with wicketkeeper Hardik Tamore, and he was off the blocks quickly too.
It was Shaw who played some jaw-dropping shorts, like the swat for six over long-on, but he also rode his luck, with Gaurav Yadav failing to latch on to a mistimed pull to fine leg. Gaurav also reprieved Armaan Jaffer early in his innings but hit back to dismiss Shaw right at the close when the batter toe-ended a wide delivery to cover.
Towards the end, MP bowled defensively, with spinners landing deliveries outside leg and pacers bowling wide outside off. For a team on the cusp of history, MP appeared just a tad nervy, even if they were within their rights to imply such tactics. To Mumbai's credit, they found ways to play around it and give themselves a window of opportunity, however slim it may be.
Tonight's sleep or the lack thereof could either jangle MP or relax them to such an extent that Sunday is a mere formality. It's one team fighting the odds to try and gun for No. 42, the other their first.
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