Harshad Khadiwale (96) missed out on a hundred by just four runs as Maharashtra batsmen put up an improved performance in the second innings to set a 270-run target for Delhi in a Group B Ranji Trophy match, on Monday.
On a bouncy Roshanara strip, Khadiwale (96) batted superbly and shared a crucial 130-run stand for the third wicket with Ankit Bawne (55) as Maharashtra scored 266.
It will be an interesting run chase for the hosts on the final day as they need six points desperately to keep their chances of a knock-out berth alive.
The other important partnership for Maharashtra was between Shrikant Mundhe (38) and Chirag Khurana (33) who added 67 runs for the seventh wicket which might turn important in the context of the match.
While Sumit Narwal and Pradeep Sangwan got three wickets apiece, Pawan Suyal and Vikas Tokas got two wickets each.
Both Khadiwale and Mundhe were lucky as they were out off no-balls - with Sangwan being the offender on both occasions.
The Delhi bowlers bowled well in spells where they got a couple of wickets in quick succession but one pair would get stuck in. Not only did it add precious runs but also decreased the time that Delhi will be getting in order to chase the stiff target.
They now have a minimum of 90 overs including the mandatory in order to reach the target.
Delhi started well as Narwal got opener Virag Awate and one down batsman Sangram Atitkar leg before with incoming deliveries but for the next 38 overs, there wasn't any success for the home side.
The day clearly belonged to Khadiwale, who was not only solid in defence but also didn't forget to punish the loose balls. He got an able ally in Bawne who also tried to concentrate in between some flashy shots.
Khadiwale faced 195 balls hitting 12 boundaries in the process while Bawne's innings came off 107 balls with 11 boundaries.
In the post lunch session, there was ball change and it got some luck for Delhi as they quickly reduced Maharashtra from 152 for two to 165 for five. First it was Bawne who flashed hard to be caught at deep point off Vikas Tokas's bowling.
Pawan Suyal then got rival captain Rohit Motwani and Kedar Jadhav off successive deliveries. The sudden slump also affected Khadiwale's concentration as he paid for misjudging an incoming delivery from Tokas. The ball came back a shade after pitching as Khadiwale didn't offer a stroke only to see the bails clipped off.
Brief Scores: Maharashtra 196 & 266 in 90.4 overs (Harshad Khadiwale 96, Ankit Bawne 55, Sumit Narwal 3/48, Pradeep Sangwan 3/64, Pawan Suyal 2/58). Delhi 193.