Mumbai’s response to Punjab’s daunting first innings score of 580 was built around the reassuring Rohit Sharma at the crease on day three in Ranji Trophy Group A League. He hit a classy, unbeaten 163 (243 balls, 19x4, 3x6) in keeping with the demands of the situation and assisted his side reach 364 for three.

The home team, 216 runs behind in pursuit of first innings lead, have one day to accomplish the task.

Left-hander Hiken Shah showed his utility with a patient 54 not out (163 balls, 5x4) in a fourth wicket stand.

There is an aura around Rohit in domestic cricket, his instinct for shot-making which makes batting look easy on the same track which appears a struggle for lesser gifted. He averages 58.26 from 53 matches in first-class cricket prior to this tie.

Rohit reached his century in 150 balls and hit three sixes in all, one off the pacers and two against slow bowlers. Mumbai needed him to stay at the wicket for long duration to infuse confidence in other batsmen.

With Wasim Jaffer opting out of the game and Ajinkya Rahane falling early to Siddharth Kaul, Rohit took up the responsibility to build the innings and quieten nerves in the home team dressing room.

Punjab’s younger generation of batsmen had relished the Wankhede track on the first two days, so runs would come as long as batsmen showed application.

Mumbai’s captain in earlier games (when Ajit Agarkar was ruled out over fitness issues) set about building a partnership with in-form Hiken for the fourth, worth 171 runs and still going strong. The closest Punjab came to getting him to make a mistake was an attempted cut off Grewal which flew out of range from the slip fielders.

Sandeep Sharma, the young new ball bowler with the maximum wickets for Punjab this season, strove hard to keep the runs in check, bowling 24 overs costing 64 runs. Harbhajan send down 25 overs and finished the day with one wicket for 71.

Pawar’s dogged presence early on helped the home team pick up runs quietly, the opener progressing from 25 not out overnight to 78 in 176 balls (9x4) before falling to the Punjab captain Harbhajan.

The scores:

Punjab — 1st innings: 580.

Mumbai — 1st innings: Kaustubh Pawar c Jiwanjot b Harbhajan 78, Aditya Tare c & b Grewal 18, Ajinkya Rahane c Ravinder b S. Kaul 31, Rohit Sharma (batting) 163, Hiken Shah (batting) 54. Extras (lb-13, nb-6, w-1) 20. Total (109 overs) 364-3

Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-106, 3-193

Punjab bowling: Sandeep Sharma 24-5-64-0, Manpreet Grewal 18-4-68-1, Siddarth Kaul 16-1-55-1, Harbhajan 25-1-71-1, Amitoze Singh 6-0-25-0, Bipul Sharma 18-0-61-0, Mandeep Singh 2-0-7-0.

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