The scores were levelled at 384. Mumbai needed one run to take the much-needed first-innings lead against Maharashtra to reach the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy.
Everything looked in the home team’s favour until Vicky Ostwal struck on the final delivery before tea as Tanush Kotian’s sweep shot cost him his leg stump. And with that, Mumbai’s hopes of reaching the playoffs were also dented.
Having lost its top-order early, not many expected Mumbai to even come closer to Maharashtra’s 384, but riding on Prasad Pawar’s classy 145 (262b, 15x4) and Kotian’s brave 93 (169b, 9x4, 1x6), the home team managed to give a strong fight.
Unless Mumbai miraculously pulls off an outright win on the final day on Friday, Maharashtra will end its campaign on 26 points and pave the way for Andhra (also on 26 points) to qualify from Elite Group B as the second team - along with Saurashtra - on the virtue of more bonus points won.
Mumbai would still be proud of the way Pawar and Kotian fought back. While Pawar scored his maiden first-class century with elan, it was a story of courage for Kotian. Having got six stitches on his right hand after being hit on the first day, Kotian could not bowl beyond three overs in the first innings, but he came out to bat and made an impact, at a time when it mattered the most for Mumbai.
He started off with a flurry of boundaries and a six, to forge a crucial 68-run partnership with Pawar and helped Mumbai slowly take control of the game. Resuming the day at 99, Pawar brought up his century on the first ball of the day and built a 51-run stand with Shams Mulani before the latter was stumped by Saurabh Nawale off a Siddesh Veer delivery.
But Pawar stood firm and played a disciplined knock, making the most of a reprieve at 121, and took charge along with Kotian. Featuring in his third first-class game, Pawar stamped his class as he cut and drove fluently, putting pressure on the Maharashtra bowlers.
At the stroke of lunch, Kotian was caught at deep square leg by Veer off a Pradeep Dadhe delivery, but the umpires called it a no-ball as he had overstepped the line.
But in the fourth over after lunch, Pawar attempted an upper cut off a short-pitched delivery by Dadhe, but was caught at Veer at third man.
The onus was on Kotian to step up and the 24-year-old remained calm to bring up his sixth first-class half-century and also forged a partnership with Mohit Avasthi to bring Mumbai closer to its target. But in the end, he fell seven short of what would have been his maiden first-class century and with that, Mumbai’s dreams also shattered.
In the second innings, Maharashtra looked cautious as it ended the day 51-2, with Veer not out on 29 and Ostwal on zero. Tushar Deshpande removed Pavan Shah on a duck on the second delivery of the innings, but Veer forged a partnership with Naushad Shaikh before the latter was cleaned up by Shams Mulani at the fag end of the day.