Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo
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Mumbai outplayed Uttar Pradesh in all departments to take stumps with a lead of 346, with nine wickets in hand, on day 3 of their Ranji Trophy semi-final at Just Cricket Academy. After bowling UP out for 180 inside 55 overs, Mumbai took charge via Prithvi Shaw's entertaining third-innings half-century.
Apart from the differences between the teams with bat and ball, UP may also have let themselves down with their fielding. In two innings so far, they have dropped five catches and missed out on a run-out chance too - most of them at critical moments.
It began with UP dropping Yashasvi Jaiswal twice on day one, when Mumbai were yet to cross 80. It happened in the second session, with wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel dropping Jaiswal on 33 when Ankit Rajpoot set him up nicely and had him nicking off in the corridor. But replays confirmed that Jurel hadn't gathered the ball cleanly. In Rajpoot's very next over, Rinku Singh fumbled a catch at gully, when Jaiswal, who was on 37, went for an uppish shot. Rajpoot heaved a frustrated sigh, and it was understandable. Jaiswal went on to score a century.
Cut to the second session of day two - the first session was washed out after overnight rain. With a hint of moisture in the air, UP had the opportunity to use conditions to their advantage and put Mumbai under pressure. And while their bowlers didn't make the desired impact - Hardik Tamore went on to score 115 as Mumbai dominated the day - the fielders remained butter-fingered. Tanush Kotian was dropped on 7 by Karan Sharma at first slip, and ten overs later, Samarth Singh failed to get hold of the ball at silly point when Dhawal Kulkarni was batting on 0. Saurabh Kumar was the unlucky bowler on both occasions.
These two chances didn't cost UP too much, with Mumbai having already reached 350 by then. They eventually posted a first-innings total of 393.
UP's woes did not end there. Having folded for 180 and conceded a first-innings lead of 213, they had already lost control of the game. Now they would compound their problems with their fielding lapses.
Shaw, oozing with confidence, started with a first-ball boundary through the covers and continued in this manner over the next few overs. He had been out in the first innings while attempting an ambitious drive to a wide delivery, Yash Dayal, the left-arm pacer, bowled a similar delivery on Thursday and almost had the same result, only for Rinku to drop a sitter at wide gully. Shaw was on 13 at that point.
The Mumbai captain built on this opportunity and blazed his way to a 71-ball 64. By the time Shaw was dismissed, Mumbai's lead had almost swelled to 300.
Mumbai aren't the perfect fielding team by any means. Who is? But on Thursday, their fielders set the tone for their dominance by latching on to difficult chances. Sarfaraz Khan accounted for three catches - helping dismiss Karan, Jurel and Prince Yadav. He completed two of these catches with full-length dives to his right. The first of them, a low chance off Karan, broke a 60-run stand between him and Madhav Kaushik for the third wicket.
Soon after, Suved Parkar, at forward short leg, made sure he got hold of the ball on the second attempt to send back Kaushik for 38. These two catches began a UP collapse that saw them lose five wickets for 43 runs.
Going into day four, UP will have a lot of ground to cover if they are to get back into the game. Fixing their sloppy fielding would be one small step towards that aim.