Youngsters Manish Pandey and Ganesh Satish played contrasting innings but batted well together to add 89 runs during an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership that gives Karnataka an outside chance of wresting the Ranji Trophy from Mumbai.
At stumps on Day III of an absorbing final, Karnataka were 135 for three chasing 338. Pandey was batting on 59 from 71 balls and Satish on 40 from 125. The equation is simple: the hosts need 203 runs and Mumbai seven wickets. The five-day final should be over with a day to spare unless the weather intervenes, which seems unlikely.
Mumbai have the edge because they have the runs on the board and Karnataka do not have a lot of experience in their line-up. A couple of quick wickets can spark off a collapse.
However, two things can work in Karnataka’s favour: the wicket has eased out and Mumbai will not have a new ball first thing in the morning. Facing a 42-over-old ball in the first session can be easier.
Pandey and Satish had their share of luck. Pandey slashed at a number of short balls without connecting and Satish was beaten outside his off-stump often. However, the way they stuck at it was impressive.
While Satish dropped anchor, Pandey played his natural aggressive game from ball one. A flick from off stump against Abhishek Nayar that sent the ball to the square-leg boundary showed Pandey at his flamboyant best.
Their job is not yet half done, but on Thursday Pandey, 20, and Satish, 21, will have the opportunity to script stories they can tell their grandchildren. The two of them came together at the crease after Ajit Agarkar had rocked Karnataka’s fourth-innings chase with quick wickets.
After sundry characters had stamped their authority on the game, Agarkar decided it was time he had his say and nipped out three top-order batsmen.
His first over saw C.M. Gautam gift his wicket away, but he needed no help with the next two wickets.
Bowling from the Hunsur Road end, Agarkar burst through opener K.B. Pawan’s defence and rapped him on the pads. Then he had Robin Uthappa who was playing away from his body to be caught behind.
Agarkar was made to look foolish after his run out in the first innings and got only one wicket when Karnataka batted the first time. He was unhappy with something that was said to him by the Karnataka players after his dismissal in the second innings. He has given some of it back now and more may follow on Thursday.
And let us not forget Dhawal Kulkarni, whose 87 may prove to be the decisive knock of the final, and Avishkar Salvi. These guys can bowl.