This is it, then: 39 runs to get, four wickets in hand. In what has been a cracker of a Ranji Trophy match, Sachin Tendulkar stands between Haryana and a famous win.
Batting in his final innings in domestic cricket, the maestro produced a typically khadoos unbeaten 55 (122 balls, 4x4) as Mumbai ended Day Three of the season opener at 201/6. The fourth and final day promises to be no less captivating, but the match could well be over in the first hour.
Haryana’s last pair added 17 to the team’s overnight score of 224. Chasing 240 for an outright win, Mumbai lost the ever-dependable Wasim Jaffer in the second over, the right-hander edging one to wicketkeeper Nitin Saini off Harshal Patel. Test hopeful Ajinkya Rahane then joined hands with Kaustubh Pawar and the duo added 86 runs in a little over 34 overs before Rahane (40, 92 balls, 4x4) was bowled by Jayant Yadav.
The crowd, though, got what they wanted. Out came Tendulkar. The 40-year-old got off the mark right away, but he looked anything but confident early in the innings. But he hung in there. Mumbai crawled past the 100-run mark — a psychological hurdle crossed — in the 41st over when Tendulkar guided a Mohit Sharma delivery to the fine-leg fence for his first boundary.
Three overs later, Mumbai lost Pawar to Mohit who extracted some bounce and induced an edge that was pouched one-handed by the wicketkeeper. Abhishek Nayar was slow to begin with. But the left-hander worked his way to a 22-ball 15 when the teams took tea. At the break, Mumbai were 131/3, still 109 away.
Tendulkar started the final session with a cracking boundary off Patel, the ball beating the man at backward point. He may have scored just four fours all day, but there were plenty of ones and twos. Nayar supported him well. But just when you thought that Mumbai would change gears to seal the deal, Nayar fell to Ashish Hooda for 24. New man Aditya Tare was gone in no time, the wicketkeeper-batsman falling victim to a direct throw from Patel at the boundary.
Tendulkar didn’t let the mayhem affect him. Instead, he flicked Joginder Sharma through the vacant square-leg region for a couple to bring up his 115th first-class half-century. But things only got worse. Instead of keeping Tendulkar company, Hiken Shah threw it away by going for a lofted drive over mid-off. Ajay Jadeja, all of 42, times his jump perfectly t0 give Mohit his second wicket.