Unheralded Yash Dubey and Shubham Sharma made the biggest stage of Indian domestic cricket their own with well-crafted centuries, that pulled the rug from under heavyweights Mumbai's feet as Madhya Pradesh took a giant leap towards their maiden Ranji Trophy title in Bengaluru on Friday. (More Cricket News)
Mumbai's first innings score of 374 looked reasonably good on the second day but Dubey (133, 336 balls) and Sharma (116, 215 balls) added 222 runs for the second wicket to take MP to a solid 368 for 3 at the end of day three.
Madhya Pradesh now need only seven more runs to take a decisive first innings lead and unless they suffer a collapse in the fourth innings, the title is theirs for taking.
MP had lost to Karnataka when the last time they competed in a Ranji Trophy final in the 1998-99 season.
The duo took the sting out of Mumbai attack with some 'khadoos' (stubborn) batting straight out of Chandrakant Pandit's coaching play book as 245 runs were scored through the whole day but more effectively, they ran Mumbai attack ragged with their solid game plan.
Rajat Patidar, one of the heroes of RCB's campaign in the IPL, then used his new-found confidence to score an unbeaten 67 with 13 boundaries.
MP would certainly want to stretch their innings as much as possible so that Mumbai have no chance to make a comeback in the game.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium track didn’t show signs of wear and tear and the bright sunshine only helped the MP batters to settle down easily against a Mumbai attack which was at one level ordinary.
The biggest disappointment was their left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (1/117 in 40 overs), who bowled too many loose deliveries.
Veteran Dhawal Kulkarni (21-3-51-0) and the seasoned Tushar Deshpande (24-8-73-1) were also below-par as they consistently gave drivable length the batters in the morning session.
Instead of conjuring up maiden overs and building the pressure slowly, within first half an hour, they allowed Dubey and Sharma to easily hit multiple cover drives to get their eye in.
Kulkarni, the only man in this set-up with experience of winning a Ranji Trophy, bowled too many deliveries outside the off-stump which were left alone.
he only time he looked menacing was when Dubey had taken his eyes off a short ball and was knocked down.
When Mulani came in, Sharma lofted him over long-off for a six, leaving his skipper Prithvi Shaw frustrated.
Mulani bowled too many length balls and at times full-tosses to make life of the batters much easier.
While Dubey hit 14 boundaries and Sharma had 15 hits and a maximum to his credit, what stood out during their partnership was their running between the wickets.
That Dubey (613 runs) and Sharma (578 runs) have been standout performers for MP this season was evident in their on-field communication, where they would tap the ball towards mid-on or mid-off to steal those quick singles.
People remember boundaries but Dubey and Sharma ran 76 singles between them in their double-hundred plus partnership.
Save Arman Jaffer missing a regulation catch of Sharma at short point, Mumbai hardly created any chances although Mohit Avasthi (20-5-53-1) could be credited for bowling one channel.
Some of their appeals were outrageous and once Shaw was seen gesturing to umpire Virender Sharma as to why he couldn't hear a nick when replays showed that clearly there wasn't one.
Dubey in fact after scoring his hundred did repeat the ‘Sidhu Moosewala’ celebration (thigh thump and index finger pointed towards sky) but it was more about driving home a point for Sarfaraz Khan, who was sledging the duo.
By the time, Sharma was caught behind off Avasthi and Dubey gave Mulani something to cheer after another 72-run third wicket stand, some of the Mumbai players were on their hunches.
Patidar was smashing them for fun and the writing is clearly on the Wall.
Mumbaikar Pandit's Madhya Pradesh is walking away with this one unless there is a miracle in last two days.