Tamil Nadu 190 for 3 (Badrinath 78*, Vasudevadas 22*) trail Rajasthan 552 for 7 decl (Chopra 139, Menaria 106, Kanitkar 100*) by 332 runs

Tamil Nadu's wall S Badrinath stood between Rajasthan and their dream of entering the Ranji final at end of a fascinating third day in Jaipur. The equation is simple if no team takes the first-innings lead: Tamil Nadu, if they don't get bowled out, will have to score 272 runs in 90 overs on the final day to go through based on net run-rate. Badrinath came in the eighth over of Tamil Nadu's innings, after Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Ashok Menaria hit hundreds to push Rajasthan to a strong 552, and faced 184 balls for his unbeaten 78.

There were several dramatic moments in the day: When Badrinath was on 57, there was a huge shout for a catch off Sumit Mathur. There was some noise as Badrinath prodded at it but there was no visible deflection. Badrinath was also earlier involved in an incident with the umpire Tim Robinson. Rajasthan's players complained that Badrinath was not getting ready to face and was repeatedly pulling out when their bowlers were running in to bowl. "You have to be ready when the bowler is ready to bowl," Robinson told Badrinath who said he won't get ready until the fielders behind the wicket stopped chattering. Badrinath edged the next delivery to his pad and scrambled across for a quick single and was involved in a discussion with the umpire.

It was that kind of a day. There was lot of chirping from the fielders - Aakash Chopra was the acting captain in the absence of the indisposed Kanitkar - and the seamers, Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar, bowled their heart out on a docile track. While the rest of the top order wilted around him, Badrinath stood firm.

His foot movement was precise- he was fully committed on the front and back foot- and drove and cut at every opportunity. He cut and drove the spinners well and was equally fluent against the seamers. There was a lovely cover drive against Pankaj but his best shot was a gorgeous extra cover drive off Chahar late in the day. It perfectly captured his assured knock: He leaned well forward, the front elbow was high and he caressed through the line of the delivery.

Rajasthan attacked the rest of the batsmen with purpose. Chahar followed couple of bouncers with a full outswinger and the opener Arun Karthik dragged his attempted cover drive to the leg stump. Abhinav Mukund, the other in-form batsman, strived to get forward at every opportunity but Pankaj went round the stumps to nail him with a delivery that seamed in to trap him lbw. Dinesh Karthik, who has a solitary fifty this season, tried to look positive, cutting the legspinner Vivek Yadav for three successive boundaries. However, Yadav got one to slide on straight and Karthik was caught in front, pushing well outside the line. K Vasudevadas lent support to Badrinath and the pair added 50 runs in 20 overs to leave the game fascinatingly poised.

Tamil Nadu have R Sathish, who hit a match-saving hundred against Haryana in the quarter-final, to follow and Rajasthan will have the opportunity to take the new ball in 11 overs. That new cherry could well decide the fate of the game.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo