Maharashtra on top as bowlers’ efforts pay off

Just as captain Rohit Motwani considered the unpleasant implications of surrendering the all-important first innings lead to Vidarbha, help arrived from an unlikely quarter.

Chirag Khurana, the opening batsman who through the course of the season has been used as a front-line bowler by Motwani, managed to conjure up a breakthrough. Khurana tossed up an off-spinner which pitched in just the right spot for Gaurav Upadhyay, batting on 77, to attempt an expansive drive. The ball deviated slightly off the wicket, took the edge of Upadhyay's bat and looped into the waiting hands of Sangram Atitkar at first slip.

With Upadhyay's wicket, Vidarbha's brief fightback which had started with a partnership of 78 runs for the eighth wicket, between Upadhyay and Shreekant Wagh, was terminated by the guile of Khurana. Samad Fallah cleaned up the Vidarbha tail and

Maharashtra took a 16 run first innings lead.

Fallah said the wicket was a turner with a little something for the pacers too. "If fast bowlers bowl in the right areas then there is something in the wicket. Once the ball is old, the reverse swing is also an encouragement," he said.

Maharashtra's first innings centurion, Virag Awate, seemed to have taken a fancy to the Vidarbha bowlers as he struck an elegant half century in the second essay remaining unbeaten on 54. Maharashtra finished Day 3 on 95 for three, with the lead at 111.

Opener, Harshad Khadiwale, was dismissed for nine bowled by Shreekant Wagh while Sangram Atitkar was unlucky to have been run out.

Maharashtra also lost Ankit Bawne who spooned a return catch Vidarbha skipper Sairaj Bahutule. Captain, Motwani, was at the crease on 19 with Awate when stumps were drawn.

Motwani said that Maharashtra would ideally like to post a total between 200 to 220 for Vidarbha to chase. "The first session is very important. It is imperative that we get some runs and if we manage to add 100 runs in the first session tomorrow, we would fancy our chances of bowling them out," he said. Motwani also said that the team would push for an outright win.

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