Jaipur: Hiken Shah's unbeaten century and Rohit Sharma's splendid half-century put Mumbai in a commendable position as they piled up 360 for 3 at the close of the day three in their Group A encounter against Rajasthan at Jaipur. They're trailing by just 128 runs and look set to surpass Rajasthan's first innings total of 478.
Resuming from their overnight total of 76 for 0, Mumbai got their first run on the board for day three when Aditya Tare flicked Pankaj Singh through mid-wicket for a boundary in the 3rd over of the day. He reached his half-century in the 35th over of the innings by picking up a couple of runs off Pankaj as Mumbai crossed the 100-run mark.
Kaustubh Pawar, who played a second fiddle to Tare on Saturday, was more dominant between the two openers in the morning session as he cracked four boundaries in the first hour of play. He completed his half-century by gliding Aniket Choudhary to fine leg boundary but couldn't kick on. He was beaten by the pace as he was castled by Choudhary on 53. Pawar and Tare added 123 runs for the first wicket.
Tare took up the mantle to score runs after Pawar's dismissal as he hit a flurry of boundaries. Left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh was on the receiving end of the pasting as Tare carved him for three boundaries in his 8th over. First one was a neat late-cut while the second one was thumping straight drive. H Shah looked in fine touch right from the word go and played Rajasthan bowlers with an air of easy confidence. He was scalped by Pankaj Singh just before lunch. He was beaten in the air as the ball swung late and Tare poked at the delivery, only to give a simple catch to wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik. Mumbai were 166 for 2 going into lunch.
Rohit Sharma was solid from the start and negotiated the bowlers without much trouble. He crafted his first boundary by playing a sublime late-cut off Pankaj Singh and later took spinners the apart. Gajendra Singh was hit for a six over extra cover, while Ashok Menaria was clobbered over long-off. Sixes were followed by a classy cover drive off Pankaj as he moved into the 30s. H Shah played a crushing cut to point boundary as Mumbai reached 200 in 71 overs.
There was no juice in the wicket for seamers even in the morning session and pitch eased out even more after lunch. Spinners, too, were unable to get any zip off the wicket and batsmen reigned supreme. While Rohit was busy enchanting the spectators with majestic stroke-play, H Shah went about doing his job with utmost conviction. He nudged the ball around skillfully and kept rotating the strike. He brought up his half-century in the 82nd over by picking up a single off Rituraj Singh. He smashed Choudhary for a couple of boundaries in his consecutive overs as Mumbai took tea at 257 for 2.
Both batsmen came out all guns blazing after tea as they added 56 runs in 10 overs. Rohit larruped Pankaj for a couple of boundaries on consecutive balls; first one was pulled imperiously to deep square leg while the next one was flicked through midwicket to reach his half-century in 80 balls. H Shah also up the ante and clobbered Menaria for three boundaries in his 11th over; a fine late-cut, a superb sweep and a lofted shot over mid-on. Mumbai reached 300 in 100.3 overs as Rohit clattered Pankaj Singh for a boundary through cover.
Rajasthan's fielding was far from satisfactory as they were sluggish in the field, and also dropped two catches in the last hour of the play. H Shah was dropped by Rituraj at 98 when he drove the ball in the air. Rituraj dived to his left but couldn't hold on to the ball after getting both hands to it. Choudhary was the unfortunate bowler. In the next over, Rohit was dropped at cover by Menaria off the bowling of Rituraj.
Hiken Shah notched up his 3rd first-class hundred by flicking Aniket Choudhary to deep square leg for 3 runs. It took him 204 balls and he flayed 13 boundaries. Rohit couldn't capitalise on the dropped chance and was soon castled by Rituraj Singh as he tried to drive the good length ball, which cut in and shattered his stumps. Rohit made 79 off 134 balls, and whacked 10 boundaries and 2 sixes.
Rohit's departure didn't have any effect on H Shah as he continued to pile agony on Rajasthan. He smacked Rituraj for a couple of boundaries in an over as Mumbai went past 350. At stumps on day three, Mumbai are 360 for 3 in 117 overs. H Shah and Kshemal Waigankar are batting at 118 and 7, respectively.
Pankaj and Rituraj bowled with a lot of pep and vigour in their first spells but the nature of wicket negated their diligence. Spinners were downright ordinary. Gajendra Singh didn't exhibit any variation and kept bowling flat, while Menaria was wayward and hammered by batsmen.