Irani cup: Rest of India on winning track

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Venugopala Rao posted a stroke filled century that guided Rest of India to an impregnable position against Mumbai in the Irani Cup cricket tie.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Venugopala Rao posted a stroke filled century that guided Rest of India to an impregnable position against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai in the Irani Cup cricket tie at the PCA Stadium today. Andhra batsman Rao proved to be a smiling assassin as his stylish batting took the Mumbai bowling by the scruff of its neck and helped Rest reach 363 for nine, a massive lead of 479, at close on the third day. Rao perished while trying to impose himself on the rival bowlers but not before his 113 from 205 balls filled with 14 fours and a six had taken the match away from Mumbai. Job unfinished Mumbai were once again guilty of leaving the job unfinished as Rest recovered from a precarious 125 for five through a century partnership between Rao and Parthiv Patel. Patel contributed a vital 68 and during his three hour and 39 minute stay at the crease added 162 runs for the sixth wicket with Rao. Zaheer Khan then rubbed salt in Mumbai's wounds, plundering 46 off 41 balls with three fours and four sixes. With two full day's play remaining, a result is assured. Mumbai’s chances And although Mumbai's chances cannot be ruled out with the Mohali track still good enough for stroke play, their first innings capitulation for 198 does not inspire much hopes. Mumbai, who had conceded a 116-run first innings lead on Thursday, fought their way back into the match with captain Sairaj Bahutule striking twice in the morning session. Resuming at 82 for two, Rest lost their skipper Dinesh Mongia (12) in the tenth over of the day when he fended at an outside the off delivery from Avishkar Salvi to wicketkeeper Vinayak Samant. Bahutule then had the other overnight batsman, opener Aakash Chopra, caught and bowled before luring Joginder Sharma into a lofted drive and Ramesh Powar at long off completed the rest. Lazy elegance With only an hour into the third day's play, it looked as if Rest had blown up their chances. But Rao and Patel proved to be a thorn in their skin. It was difficult to say whether Rao's batting reminded Mohammad Azharuddin or V V S Laxman. But he had that typical lazy elegance, which was amplified when he planted his front foot and drove Bahutule's leg spin effortlessly through the cover. After a circumspective start when he was repeatedly beaten outside the off by Salvi, Rao opened up with a cut between gully and point off the same bowler. He quickly settled into a rhythm and was soon taking on off-spinner Ramesh Powar. Usual cocksure Patel at the other end was his usual cocksure in driving and cutting the seamers. From 161 for five at lunch, Rest moved to 250 for no further loss as runs kept flowing. Rao reached his century with a cut four off Robin Morris and succumbed to his instincts when a mistimed drive off Powar found Salvi at long on. Patel in the meantime fell to the leg side trap as his hook off Salvi was easily taken by Vinayak Mane at backward square leg. (PTI)

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