Jaipur: The Rest of India are well and truly on their way of regaining the Irani Cup title after tightening the noose on Ranji Trophy champions Rajasthan, at stumps on the second day at the Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur on Sunday.
After piling up a massive 663 in their first innings, the Rest bowlers then pegged back Rajasthan, reducing them to 53 for three. Worse, their batting mainstays Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Aakash Chopra are already back in the pavilion, with the home team needing another 460 runs to avoid follow-on.
Umesh Yadav, who consistently hit the 140 kmph barrier, troubled the batsmen with his pace as opener Vineet Saxena (11) fished at an away-going delivery that had extra bounce and was snapped by Parthiv Patel.
Kanitkar (14) was confidently middling the ball before he edged one that was angled across to him off Yadav's bowling.
Chopra, however, is the man who should be blamed for his indiscretion as he rushed out to lift Pragyan Ojha off in the last over of the day. Yadav ran backwards to take a splendid catch. Chopra had made 20 in 71 balls and never looked like taking any risk till that moment of madness brought about his downfall.
Earlier, the Rest of India batsmen did well enough to cross 650-run mark, although the Rajasthan bowlers save Deepak Chahar (0/168) gave a better account of themselves.
Debutant Aniket Choudhary (4/125) induced Parthiv Patel (55) to go for a flashy shot and was caught by Rohit Jhalani behind the stumps. Mandeep Singh (60) joined Ajinkya Rahane (152, 266 balls, 17x4, 1x6) who failed to get going on Day 2.
Mandeep played some edgy strokes and in between hit a few good ones as the duo added 79 runs before Rahane played an uppish cover drive off Sumit Mathur (3/129) to be caught by Robin Bisht. Mandeep, who got his third first-class half century, then nicked one to Jhalani as Rest were reduced to 512 for six.
R Vinay Kumar (43) and Varun Aaron (41) then added 77 runs for the seventh wicket before Vinay perished trying to pull Saxena. Saxena also dismissed Aaron who was trapped leg-before. The duo missed their half centuries but Rahul Sharma (52, 38 balls, 2x4, 5x6) celebrated his India call-up in style as he made merry, chancing his arm at anything and everything.
The five sixes he hit were big ones with a few of them landing in the stands. This was his third half-century in first-class cricket and when he became the last man to be dismissed, Rest had piled up enough runs to stake claim for a sixth straight Irani title in recent years.