Rajasthan and the home team have fought a hard campaign for three days in the Ranji Trophy final at the Moti Bagh Palace ground and when the stumps were drawn on Thursday there were no clear signs yet of which team would get the upper hand in the first innings.
The possibilities of the contest building up on the fourth and fifth days are enormous. Baroda captain Pinal Shah's 77 (7x4, 2x6) was an admirable effort that prevented the first-time title seeker from taking a stronger position.
As things stand, Baroda is 70 runs behind Rajasthan's 394, with the ninth-wicket pair putting up a splendid rearguard action.
With 180 overs yet to be sent down to determine the winner, the onus is on Baroda to wrest the slight advantage Rajasthan enjoys and force a fourth innings result.
Potential for future
The young players, who have been in the thick of action, have offered glimpses of their potential. Resuming at his overnight 46, left-hander Jaikishan Kolsawala showed a terrific resolve to occupy the crease for more than an hour and a flurry of shots took him past his half century.
He and Kedar Devdhar showed concentration and found out that forward play and soft hands were a safe way to deal with off-spinner Madhur Khatri and leg-spinner Vivek Yadav.
Rajasthan began with a maiden over from Khatri but seamer Pankaj Singh was punished for erring in line.
Yadav, introduced at 94 for one, sent down a tantalising line, turned the ball just enough and pushed the batsmen on their backfoot.
He was rewarded with the wickets of Koslawala and Devdhar. Khatri choked the supply of runs by sending down 16 overs for 18 runs.
Ambati Rayudu, who struck a lovely off drive and a cover drive for fours, was the third batsman in the pre-lunch session to fall on ‘backplay' and the man who dismissed him was seamer Deepak Chahar.
K. Hariharan ruled him leg before when Chahar's delivery squared him up and struck his back leg above the flap of the pad. It was a marginal decision and Rayudu was not quite willing to accept it.
Skipper Pinal Shah and left-hander Aditya Waghmode, playing only his second innings in first class cricket, retrieved the situation in the post lunch session by adding 68 runs in 15 overs.
Employing the sweep shot, cuts and pulls, Waghmode dominated the stand.
The pair had raised 90 runs when Waghmode (52, 138b, 7x4) was held smartly at cover by Hrishikesh Kanitkar off Yadav.
Thereafter Pankaj, bowling his best spell in the match with the second new ball, sent back Swapnil Singh and Chahar removed the last specialist batsman in Shah.
Yadav has picked up four wickets and Chahar three. A lot has to be played in this match and Baroda's chances would largely depend on how its spinners Bhatt, Swapnil and Waghmode exploit the wicket.
Rajasthan — 1st innings: 394.
Baroda — 1st innings: C. Williams c Chopra b Yadav 17, J. Kolsawala batting c Jhalani b Yadav 64, K. Devdhar b Yadav 19, A. Waghmode c Kanitkar b Yadav 52, A. Rayudu lbw b Chahar 12, P. Shah lbw b Chahar 77, Swapnil c Saxena b Pankaj 17, A. Karambelkar c Chopra b Chahar 0, S. Vohra (batting) 16, M. Vahora (batting) 21; Extras (b-25, lb-3, w-1): 29; Total (for eight wkts. in 120 overs): 324.
Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-110, 3-113, 4-136, 5-226, 6-266, 7-269, 8-288.
Rajasthan bowling: Pankaj 25-5-66-1, Chahar 22-5-72-3, Khatri 37-10-76-0, Yadav 34-10-73-4, Menaria 2-1-9-0 .