With the last two specialist batsmen at the crease and a long tail to follow, Maharashtra captain Ankeet Bawne had hoped after the first day's play that the last five wickets would add a hundred more runs to its overnight total of 249 for five to cease control against Railways in the Ranji Trophy Group A tie.
Thanks to Rohit Motwani's (189 runs, 427m, 328b, 24x4, 3x6) personal best and valuable support from the tailenders, Maharashtra added 232 runs before being all out for 481 to end the extended second session. Had Rahul Tripathi latched on to a sharp chance offered by Saurabh Wakaskar and Motwani not missed a stumping to see the back of Shivakant Shukla off the last ball of the day, it would have capped off a perfect day for the host.
The first two sessions, however, belonged to Maharashtra, thanks to Motwani's matured display of batting. Motwani and Chirag Khurana saw the first hour off without much trouble but then Khurana played Amit Mishra on to his stumps to give Railways a reason to smile. When Nikit Dhumal edged Karan Thakur behind the wickets in the next over, the Railways opening batters would have started preparing themselves mentally.
READ: How the second day's play panned out
At 287 for seven, Motwani, then on 64, started opening his shoulders and it yielded rich dividends. With debutant Mukesh Choudhary putting a price on his wicket, Motwani started cutting and driving freely. Had Avinash Yadav caught a top-edged pull off Motwani's willow at deep mid-wicket, Maharashtra had been reduced to 325 for eight. Instead the ball bounced into his palm and landed over the ropes.
Once he got the reprieve, Motwani, then on 83, made Railways pay heavily. In the penultimate over before lunch, he completed his fourth first-class hundred — first in four years — with a stylish flick and continued the onslaught even after lunch.
Mishra suffered from the left-hander's brutal strokeplay early on in the second session, with Motwani unleashing a six over wide long-on followed by a lofted straight drive for a boundary and a pull shot for a four in the same over. Choudhary's top-edged pull lobbed to 'keeper Rawat, thus ending the 94-run association for the eighth wicket.
Rawat, however, failed to latch to an edge off Dadhe, instead injuring his finger. The injury forced Railways to field substitute Nitin Bhille as 'keeper for a better part of the last 10 overs. Motwani continued his surge towards what would have been a memorable double but with Railways guarding boundaries, he failed to clear deep square-leg 11 runs short of the milestone.