Hyderabad:Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan's seven-wicket haul broke Uttar Pradesh's back as Mumbai tightened their grip on the Ranji Trophy cricket final and ended day three with an overall lead of 287 runs here on Wednesday.
Resuming on 91 for three, UP batsmen, barring the notable exceptions of Shivakant Shukla (99) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (41), wilted in the face of some quality stuff from Zaheer and folded for 245 to concede a first innings lead of 157 runs.
To make it worse for them, Mumbai, in their second essay, cruised to 130 for no loss at stumps with captain Wasim Jaffer (74) and Vinayak Samant (53) in the middle and the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma yet to come.
Zaheer, arguably the most lethal bowler in international cricket at the moment, finished with an impressive figure of 27.2-14-54-7, his second successive five-for.
Umpiring, however, remained a matter of concern and Shivakant Shukla today fell to a dubious leg before decision just one run away from a well-deserved ton and the dismissal triggered UP's batting collapse.
Zaheer has troubled every world class batsman of late but to their credit, overnight batsmen Shukla and Parvinder Singh (22) negotiated him well.
Parvinder sustained a painful blow from Zaheer on his forearm but still did not flinch. His patience, however, wore thin before lunch and Parvinder threw away his wicket chasing a wide Abhishek Nayar delivery.
Shukla found an ally in Bhuvneshwar and the duo added 68 runs for the fifth wicket in no time before Zaheer, who so far had been troubling with reverse swing, hit back with the new ball.
Zaheer wreaked havoc in his second spell with the second new ball, claiming five middle and lower order wickets for just 20 runs as UP, from 214 for four, were shot out for 245.
The Indian spearhead started the rot when he ended Shukla's 393-minute vigil by trapping him leg before. Shukla was distinctly unlucky as the ball hit the flap of the pad well above the knee-roll and it was a sad end to his patient 266-ball knock which included 14 hits to the fence.
Zaheer then went on to remove Praveen Kumar (6) and Amir Khan (0) off successive balls. Even though a hat-trick eluded him, Zaheer returned to remove Piyush Chawla (18) and Praveen Gupta (0), again in successive deliveries, in his next over to drop curtains on the UP innings.
UP's misery knew know bound as Mumbai's second innings got off to a resounding start with openers Jaffer and Samant deciding to complement the effort of their bowling colleagues, especially Zaheer.
Both Jaffer and Samant milked the jaded UP attack with consummate ease and the nearest they were to a setback was when Bhuvneshwar could not latch on to the ball after Jaffer had driven it uppishly back to the bowler.
Jaffer's unbeaten 108-ball knock included 12 hits to the fence while Samant struck eight fours en route to his unbeaten 111-ball innings.