Mumbai have all but claimed their 38th Ranji Trophy title. They only have to assemble at the Uppal stadium in Hyderabad on Friday and go through the formalities on the final day.
With a 157-run first innings lead, Mumbai had no intentions of securing an outright win. They batted on before being all out for 367 at the scheduled close on Thursday. A maiden first-class century by Vinayak Samant (113) and a second hundred of the final for Rohit Sharma (108) took the game beyond UP's reach.
UP, to protect their pride, have to try and bat out the final day being left with a target of 525 from 90 overs which is merely academic.
When play resumed on Thursday, UP's only outside chance was to take quick wickets and apply pressure. They struck early through Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who trapped Wasim Jaffer leg before wicket for 85.
UP relied on Praveen Kumar to do the needful as R. P. Singh, with a shoulder injury, did not take the field. Praveen bowled 16 overs on the trot in the morning without complaining but luck was not on his side. He swung the ball away from the right-handers, often missing the edge. While Samant was determined not to give away his wicket, Rahane was tempted to play his strokes. Stuck for 35 minutes and scoring only 5, Rahane drove Praveen straight to short covers.
Abhishek Nayar batted at number four instead of Sachin Tendulkar and he too did not last. But Samant, in the company of Sharma, went on to realise his dream of scoring a century, coming in his 85th first class match and 80th Ranji game, 13 seasons after his debut.
Samant was promoted from number nine to five and eventually to open the batting four matches ago. He did not disappoint as the bowlers struggled. The 36-year-old wicket-keeper fell for 113 but Mumbai did not stop. Sharma, lucky to be ruled not out on one by Amish Saheba when he was struck in front off Piyush Chawla, played strokes all around the wicket. He bolstered the lower middle order, which saw Tendulkar fail for the second time in the game, falling for 4.
Sharma, only the sixth batsman in Ranji history to score a century in each innings of the final, fell for 108 and with the overall lead beyond 500, Mumbai stuck to their guns, not making a declaration at any stage.
UP's bowlers, towards the end, showed no interest, with Praveen even sending down slower and wider deliveries at the last pair of Bahutule and Kulkarni to make known his team's protest Mumbai's decision not to declare.