Defending champions Mumbai still have their noses well in front after having built on their gains of the previous day, but the mercurial Manish Pandey – who had held the most sensational catch earlier on -- and the adhesive Ganesh Satish have given Karnataka reason for hope after an ill-tempered third day at the Gangotri Glades.
Dhawal Kulkarni’s maiden first-class half-century that fell just short of a deserved ton propelled the visitors to 234 and an overall lead of 337.
Requiring one more than that for a dramatic come-from-behind victory, Karnataka saw their move to hold opener Robin Uthappa back to negate the threat of the new ball backfire, but ended Wednesday evening on 135 for three as Satish and Pandey put on 89 for the unfinished fourth wicket.
The strokeful Pandey, dropped on 44 by Vinayak Samant off Kulkarni, must remain the central figure on Thursday as Karnataka seek 203 more runs for what will undoubtedly be a stirring triumph. Without being at his magnificent best, the 20-year-old delighted the huge gathering with a brilliant exhibition of his own unique brand of stroke-making to negate Ajit Agarkar’s fiery bursts and subtly transfer a little bit of pressure on to the opposition. Agarkar, clearly nettled after his run out on day one, breathed fire when Karnataka came out an hour before tea in quest of the biggest total of the match.
The new ball being the decisive weapon with the track having eased out somewhat, Karnataka promoted CM Gautam to open the batting with KB Pawan, a plan that came unstuck in the very first over when the stumper chased a wide delivery and offered a tame catch to second slip.
Kulkarni and first-innings destroyer Aavishkar Salvi struggled for consistent rhythm and control, especially after Pandey’s blazing arrival, but Agarkar was clearly a cut above. The fired-up paceman saw the fluent Pawan and the impressively correct Satish add 41 (72m, 103b) for the second wicket, then returned for a second spell during which he won a marginal leg before call against Pawan and accounted for Uthappa, caught behind off a needless waft outside off, a dismissal that elicited a collective expletive-filled send-off to the Karnataka captain.
Pandey walked in to the pressure-cooker situation and sped away from the beginning, favouring the off-side but unafraid to pull when the ball was dug in short.
The right-hander provided some of the most gorgeous cover-driving seen in the match while Satish was happy to enjoy the entertainment, at one point going scoreless for 29 deliveries on 16.
Mumbai were anything but scoreless when they resumed at 108 for five, Kulkarni playing some rasping cuts and booming drives. Both he and Nayar were dropped inside the first half an hour, the former by Pandey and the latter by Pawan off A Mithun and R Vinay Kumar, lapses Karnataka could ill afford given how far behind the eight-ball they were.
It needed Pandey’s remarkable athleticism in plucking out a hesitant chip-drive by Nayar to end the 95-run (146m, 188b) sixth-wicket stand. The left-hander was beaten in the air in Sunil Joshi’s first over and merely put the ball up in the region of deep mid-on.
There appeared little danger until Pandey charged to his right from widish long-on, threw himself at the ball and stuck out his right hand, a good five feet off the ground when he caught the ball. Keeping his wits about him, he ensured the ball didn’t touch the turf when he thudded on to the ground.
Agarkar came and went in a jiffy, caught by Uthappa to give Mithun his third five-for this season, but Kulkarni and Ramesh Powar added 65 priceless runs for the ninth wicket until the second new ball snipped the wagging tail.
Kulkarni guided Vinay to gully to become his 46th victim of the season, and Mithun got rid of Salvi with a snorter from round the stumps to complete his maiden Ranji campaign with a country-high 47. What a pair!
DH News Service
MUMBAI (I Innings): 233 all out in 79 overs
KARNATAKA (I Innings): 130 all out in 49.3 overs
MUMBAI (II Innings, O/n: 108/5): Sahil Kukreja c Satish b Vinay 13 (59m, 36b, 1x4), Wasim Jaffer c Gautam b Mithun 8 (8m, 7b, 2x4), Ajinkya Rahane c Gautam b Mithun 4 (5m, 2b, 1x4), Omkar Khanvilkar lbw Mithun 0 (2m, 1b), Abhishek Nayar c Pandey b Joshi 50 (218m, 139b, 4x4), Vinayak Samant c Satish b Mithun 10 (29m, 19b, 2x4), Dhawal Kulkarni c Pawan b Vinay 87 (276m, 181b, 17x4), Ajit Agarkar c Uthappa b Mithun 4 (6m, 4b, 1x4), Iqbal Abdulla c Gautam b Vinay 15 (28m, 23b, 3x4), Ramesh Powar (not out) 28 (99m, 85b, 3x4), Aavishkar Salvi c Verma b Mithun 0 (5m, 5b). Extras (B-10, LB-3, W-1, NB-1) 15. Total (all out, 83.3 overs) 234.
Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Jaffer), 2-18 (Rahane), 3-18 (Khanvilkar), 4-34 (Kukreja), 5-51 (Samant), 6-146 (Nayar), 7-150 (Agarkar), 8-172 (Abdulla), 9-233 (Kulkarni).
Bowling: R Vinay Kumar 25-6-78-3 (w-1, nb-1), A Mithun 22.3-4-71-6, S Arvind 15-4-40-0, Sunil Joshi 19-12-31-1, Amit Verma 2-1-1-0.
KARNATAKA (II Innings): KB Pawan lbw Agarkar 23 (76m, 52b, 4x4), CM Gautam c Jaffer b Agarkar 0 (3m, 2b), Ganesh Satish (batting) 40 (178m, 125b, 5x4), Robin Uthappa c Samant b Agarkar 4 (9m, 7b, 1x4), Manish Pandey (batting) 59 (95m, 71b, 9x4). Extras (B-4, NB-5) 9. Total (for 3 wkts, 42 overs) 135.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Gautam), 2-42 (Pawan), 3-46 (Uthappa).
Bowling: Ajit Agarkar 12-5-26-3, Dhawal Kulkarni 9-1-43-0 (nb-5), Aavishkar Salvi 10-3-36-0, Abhishek Nayar 6-2-11-0, Ramesh Powar 3-0-8-0, Iqbal Abdulla 2-0-7-0.