Seventeen overs and two balls. That's all it took for Maharashtra to wind up the Railways first innings and pocket three points for the innings lead in its Ranji Trophy Group A tie.
Although the host batsmen showed intent for a brief towards what could have been an overambitious declaration in a bid to double its points tally from the match, once the Maharashtra camp decided to delay calling the batsmen back, the last couple of hours turned out to be a drag at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium at Gahunje.
If Railways was to get close to Maharashtra's first innings total of 481, overnight unbeaten duo of Arindam Ghosh and Manish Rao needed to bat the entire first session. However, Pradeep Dadhe fetched an edge off Ghosh's willow off the 10th ball of the day and Rohit Motwani comfortably pouched it behind the wickets.
Five overs hence, Anureet Singh drove the other right-arm pacer, Nikit Dhumal, straight to captain Ankit Bawane at mid-off. At 345 for seven, the writing was clear on the wall for Railways and Manish Rao was in danger of running out of partners. Rao naturally started playing strokes freely.
He welcomed Samad Fallah, who replaced Dhumal from the pavilion end, with a couple of crisp drives. However, Fallah soon got revenge as an edge off Rao's willow was splendidly caught for Naushad Shaikh at second slip, leaping to his right.
In Fallah's next over, Shaikh caught Avinash Yadav unaware — with the batsman not returning to the crease after a huge leg-before shount — and the fielder's direct hit from the second slip catching the batsman short of his crease.
Fallah then completed the formalities by disturbing the woodwork of last man Amit Mishra soon after the drinks break.
With the advantage of 100 runs and the pitch not showing any signs of wear and tear, Maharashtra openers were cautious in the 14 overs before lunch. In the first hour after lunch, Maharashtra batsmen went after the Railways bowlers, scoring 99 runs for the loss of three wickets. Rahul Tripathi led the rampage as the No. 3 batsman plundered 16 runs in a Rao over, including a slog-swept six over cow corner sandwiched between the rollicking cover drive and a straight drive.
However, the Maharashtra management decided against setting an enticing target, instead resting the bowlers ahead of what could well be a decisive game for the season for them in Delhi later in the week. They did declare on the stroke of tea and the teams eventually shook hands at the start of the last 15 overs.