Chennai: Rajasthan pacers struck three quick blows to reduce Tamil Nadu to 66 for 3 after Vineet Saxena's marathon knock of 257 helped the visitors to 621 all out, confirming their grip on the Ranji Trophy final at stumps on day three.
Rituraj Singh (2 for 27) and Pankaj Singh (1 for 16) reduced Tamil Nadu to 24 for 3 before Dinesh Karthik (13) and K Vasudevadas (25) combined for an unbeaten 42-run partnership before the close of play on Saturday.
But the day belonged to Saxena whose 907-minute vigil was the second-longest in the Ranji Trophy history and third-longest overall in first-class cricket.
Saxena resumed his marathon knock in the customary fashion, respecting the good deliveries with solid defence and dispatching the bad ones with consummate ease. With Robin Bist, Saxena continued to grind Tamil Nadu bowlers, giving clear indication that Rajasthan were eyeing back-to-back Ranji Trophy trophies on first innings lead.
When Bist raised his bat after reaching a fifty off 146 balls, Rajasthan had all their top four batsmen scoring a half century or more. But he couldn't go past 57, losing his wicket to Sunny Gupta. However, the runs Bist scored were enough to make him the season's highest run-scorer.
The visitors then ended the first session on day three at 506 for 3, an addition of 102 runs to their overnight score for the loss of one wicket in 37 overs.
But the wicket of Saxena, who was bowled by Srinivas after lunch, triggered a collapse. The last seven Rajasthan wickets fell for 112 runs, though not before the total had reached a mammoth 621 runs at tea.
Tamil Nadu's left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas was awarded for his marathon spell of 85 overs with four wickets, while medium-pacer Jagannathan Kaushik and offspinner Gupta, who bowled 47 and 46 overs respectively, shared three wickets each.
Saxena's stay at the crease was only behind former Himachal Pradesh captain Rajeev Nayyar who batted for 1015 minutes (16 hours 55 minutes) for his 271 against Jammu and Kashmir in a Ranji Trophy match at Chamba back in 1999-00. Saxena also moved past eight batsmen to reach the second spot in this season's highest run-scorers.
Longest Ranji Trophy innings (by minutes*)
Rajeev Nayyar (271) HP v J&K, 1999 – 1,015 minutes
Vineet Saxena (257) Rajasthan v Tamil Nadu, 2012 - 907 minutes
Shivakant Shukla (178*) UP v Tamil Nadu, 2008 – 821 minutes
Aakash Chopra (301*) Rajasthan v Maharashtra, 2010 – 812 minutes
Shitanshu Kotak (168*) Saurashtra v Mumbai, 2007 – 796 minutes
Bhupinder Singh (297) Punjab v Delhi, 1995 – 785 minutes
VVS Laxman (353) Hyderabad v Karnataka, 2000 – 758 minutes
*Cut-off: 750 minutes