Rao puts Rest of India on course for victory

Rest of India 314 and 363 for 9 (Rao 113, Patel 68) lead Mumbai 198 (Powar 55) by 479 runs

Venugopal Rao, who has distinguished himself for Andhra Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, scored a fine century, and added 162 runs for the fifth wicket with Parthiv Patel as Rest of India consolidated their already considerable gains on the third day of the Irani Trophy match against Mumbai at Mohali. Rao's 205-ball 113 left Mumbai pondering an improbably run chase over the final two days if they are to wrest back the trophy.

Resuming at 84 for 2, Rest of India lost three wickets in the first session. Dinesh Mongia, one of those pushing for a place in the Indian squad, did himself no favours with a second low score in the match, caught behind off Aavishkar Salvi for just 12 (103 for 3). And fellow Test aspirant Aakash Chopra soon followed, caught and bowled by Sairaj Bahutule for 41 (126 for 4).

When Joginder Sharma followed three balls later, caught by Ramesh Powar, Mumbai glimpsed an opening, but that was rudely shut in their faces as Rao and Patel dominated the second session, wearing down the bowlers. They batted on till after tea before Patel edged one from Salvi to Vinayak Mane. His 68 came from 150 balls, and having made 60 in the first innings, he is now virtually a certainty to keep his place behind the stumps for the first Test against Australia.

Rao duly brought up his ninth first-class century before hitting a Powar delivery to Salvi (311 for 7), and Mumbai's misery was complete when Zaheer Khan smacked an unbeaten 41-ball 46 in the final hour, including four big sixes. With both Zaheer and Shib Sankar Paul in excellent bowling form, Mumbai could be on a hiding to nothing tomorrow.