Maharashtra fought their way back in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Mumbai in brilliant fashion by bundling out the defending champions for a meagre 129 in second innings on a dramatic third day of the five-day match in Mumbai on Friday.
Maharashtra were all out for 280 in their first innings in reply to Mumbai's 402, thereby conceding a lead of 122 runs, but the visiting bowlers brought their side back into the game by dismissing the hosts for just 129 on a day which saw 14 wickets fall.
Mumbai were in even worse situation as they were reduced to 29 for 5 at one stage before some rear-guard lower order batting took the score past 100-mark.
Maharashtra medium pace trio of Samad Fallah (3/45), Anupam Sanklecha (4/57) and Shrikant Mundhe (3/26) captured all 10 Mumbai second innings wickets with a fine exhibition of seam bowling on a Wankhede Stadium track that offered bounce and pace.
This set Maharashtra a winning target of 252 and at stumps, the visiting team were 28 for the loss of Chirag Khurana's wicket. They need 224 more runs on Saturday to reach the target and dethrone the 40-time champions, but it will not be easy on the pitch that's still lively for pace bowlers.
Maharashtra lost three wickets for 16 runs after Mumbai opted for the second new ball to be all out 34 minutes before lunch, after resuming the day at overnight 219 for 7.
Maharashtra then sliced through Mumbai top-order to leave them at a precarious 29 for 5 in just 10 overs. Fallah and Sanklecha dismissed the top five batsmen Kaustubh Pawar (5), Wasim Jaffer (0), Aditya Tare (16), Vinit Indulkar (4), who made 82 in the first innings, and Abhishek Nayar (0). Indulkar and Nayar were dismissed by Sanklecha in successive balls.
Mumbai, who were 101 for 4 in the first innings before recovering, were once again pulled out of the deep hole by first innings centurion Suryakumar Yadav (33) -- who prevented Sanklecha from completing a hat-trick -- and Iqbal Abdulla (27).
The sixth wicket duo put on 48 runs in 61 balls before Mundhe got his first wicket when he broke the stand by having Abdulla caught by Sangram Atitkar at third slip.
Yadav, who made 120 in the first knock, was then declared leg before off the same bowler and Mumbai were reduced to 88 for 7 and looked in danger of being packed off for less than 100. Shardul Thakur (33) stayed put at one end before he was the last man out to help add 41 more runs to the total which could be crucial in the final analysis.
Mundhe bowled unchanged on either side of tea for 10 overs to pick up his three wickets. In 37 minutes batting till stumps, Maharashtra lost Khurana, who opened instead of captain Motwani, for 17 off the last over bowled by Zaheer Khan when he edged one to the slips.
Regular opener Harshad Khadiwale remained unbeaten on six. In the morning, Maharashtra tail-enders frustrated the Mumbai bowlers for the major part of the first session after they started 183 runs behind the home team. Mundhe, unbeaten on 14 last evening, struck a wayward Thakur -- who had bowled so well with fire yesterday -- for three fours early on and that forced Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan to bring in Abdulla to bowl his first over in the match when the ball was 63-overs-old.
But, Abdulla and the other left-arm spinner Dabholkar failed to make any inroads and Mumbai summoned the new ball immediately after it was due when Maharashtra were 264 for 7 and it paid dividends.
Mundhe (38) fell to the first ball from Thakur, who completed his maiden five-wwith excellent, career-best figures of 6 for 86icket haul in his 11th first class game, after having put on 73 runs for the eighth wicket with Akshay Darekar (36). Javed Khan packed off Sanklecha and then Thakur added one more wicket to his tally by dismissing Darekar through a catch at the wicket to end the innings.
Both teams expressed confidence at the end of an absorbing day's play that victory would be theirs on Saturday. Maharashtra pacer Sanklecha, who was denied a hat-trick by Yadav, said his team was positive and had done the hard work to come back strongly into the game after conceding the lead.
"The match is still in the balance but we are positive and winning the game is possible. We did all the hard work that was needed to come back in the game. We had nothing to lose," said Sanklecha who has taken seven wickets in the game.
Mumbai coach and former stumper Sulakshan Kulkarni was upbeat about his team's win on Saturday and said captain Zaheer Khan would be at his best to make the difference. "It's even-stevens now. Ball is in their court. If they score (required runs), great. Tomorrow you will see the best of Zaheer Khan. I am positive, team is positive and we are confident," he said.
Kulkarni said the team was aiming for one more Maharashtra second innings wicket before close on Friday. "We were aiming for two wickets. The wicket is seam friendly. Most of our batsmen got out to good deliveries.
They bowled in the right areas and also took good catches," he said. Sanklecha praised the Wankhede track and said, "It's a very good wicket and is very helpful (to medium pacers)."