Lower order resistance and the ability to make remarkable comebacks has been a hallmark of Mumbai’s glorious history in Ranji Trophy. Saturday saw both the facets coming to the fore at the
Narendra Modi Stadium as Shams Mulani and Tanush Kotian bailed Mumbai out of trouble versus Goa to set up a tantalising last day’s play versus Goa.

Riding on Mulani (49*, 130b, 4x4) and Kotian’s (57*, 88b, 5x4, 1x6) unbroken 114-run partnership for the eighth wicket, Mumbai finished the penultimate day at 322 for seven, with a lead of 158.

On a pitch that’s started offering turn from both ends, Mumbai will hope to extend the lead on the fourth morning and script a memorable win after conceding a 164-run advantage in the first innings.

When Kotian joined Mulani in the middle, however, the thoughts of winning the game were only on the fielding team’s mind. Offspinner Amit Yadav was rewarded for his flight and dip with Ajinkya Rahane (56, 148b, 3x4) being caught at backward short-leg. Mumbai had slipped to 208 for seven.

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With a paltry lead of 44, the onus was on Mulani and Kotian to stretch the innings and give themselves along with other bowlers something to bowl at in the fourth innings. The duo batted with aplomb. While Kotian was the aggressor, driving the spinners with finesse, Mulani played the accumulator’s role to perfection.

One of the features of their partnership turned out to be strike rotation. It reflected in 52 singles and six twos they ran during their 157-minute association. It unsettled the Goa spin trio, who shared 70 of the 90 overs, with the left and right-handed combination at the crease.

Earlier in the day, Rahane and Sarfaraz Khan (48, 72b, 4x4) rebuilt the innings after Mumbai lost opener Aakarshit Gomel (caught in the slips off left-arm pacer Shreekant Wagh), Sachin Yadav (caught behind off swinger Shubham Ranjane) and nightwatchman Dhawal Kulkarni (bowled through the gate by Yadav) cheaply.

Rahane was fortunate early on when left-arm spinner Darshan Misal managed to get through his defence but the bail didn’t fall despite the ball kissing the off-stump. Soon after Mumbai had wiped off the deficit, Sarfaraz attempted a sweep shot off Misal, missed it and was trapped lbw.

With Aditya Tare (holed Misal out to covers) and Rahane being dismissed in quick succession, Goa had started smelling the blood. Kotian and Mulani then turned the tide in Mumbai’s favour.