Despite dropping a few catches, Mumbai [ Images ] were poised to take a big first-innings lead after restricting Railways to 380 for eight on day three of their Group A Ranji Trophy match played in Mumbai on Sunday.
In pursuit of Mumbai's massive 570 all out, Railways were trailing by 190 runs at stumps, and required another 41 to avoid the follow-on.
To challenge the might of Mumbai, the visitors needed at least a couple of big knocks from their top-order batsmen but that did not happen, though there were three half-centuries.
Railways could not really capitalise on the lives they got at the Wankhede stadium.
Ashish Yadav was dropped on 12 by wicketkeeper Aditya Tare off Romesh Powar. Yadav went on to make 47 off 120 balls with the help of six boundaries, but that was not enough considering the situation.
He forged a 77-run partnership with Murli Kartik, who chipped in with 41.
Both the batsmen were caught by Sachin Tendulkar [ Images ] off bowler Iqbal Abdulla.
Senior pacer Zaheer Khan [ Images ], who started the day's proceedings, left mid-way during one of his overs due to cramps.
Centurion Abhishek Nayar [ Images ] had to step in to bowl Zaheer's last delivery. It was the 99th over of the match and the pacer's 12th of the day.
The veteran bowler, in his third spell of the day, took the wicket of Mahesh Rawat, who was caught behind. It was Zaheer's third over, after opting to take the new ball after the mandatory 80 overs.
It was however Nayar who provided Mumbai the initial breakthrough, in his fourth over, by getting rid of Railways skipper Sanjay Bangar. Bangar scored 67, before being caught at extra cover by Abdulla.
Bangar shared a 110-run partnership with Nitin Bhille for the third wicket, and made the bowlers toil in the first session.
Bhille scored 73 but failed to capitalise on the dropped catch by Kaustubh Pawar. He was on 69 when second slip fielder Pawar failed to take the catch off skipper Ajit Agarkar's [ Images ] bowling.
Pawar redeemed himself by holding on to a catch in Agarkar's next over to dismiss Bhille. Pawar had dropped two catches on Saturday and had made amends later to dismiss the same batsmen.
Parag Madkaikar, who came into bat after Bangar departed, returned to the pavilion seven overs later. He was caught at forward short-leg by Pawar off the bowling of Ramesh Powar [ Images ].
Mumbai took two wickets in each session, and Railways scored 98, 99 and 97 runs to their total in the three sessions, respectively. Railways attacked Powar and scored 129 runs off his bowling.
Mumbai skipper Agarkar conceded that a result was not possible, as his team could not run through the Railways batting order.
"The result was possible but Sanjay and Bhille batted well. Not getting a wicket in the major part of first session was a big blow to us," Agarkar said.
"We will have to see. First we have to get those two wickets. Considering how the wicket is, we will see how the bowlers are tomorrow morning," he added.
He admitted that his team could have performed better.
"This is the first game of season. Sometimes the players are a bit rusty as well. We have to get better. We haven't bowled as well for sure," he said.
He defended spinner Ramesh Powar and said, "They couldn't score enough off fast bowlers. And most Indian players bat well against spin in any case. There wasn't much purchase in wicket. There wasn't enough assistance in wicket."
Scorecard (Day 3)
Railways (1st innings):
S Shukla c Pawar b Agarkar 18
A Paunikar c Pawar b Agarkar 9
N Bhille c Pawar b Agarkar 73
S Bangar c Abdulla b Nayar 67
P Madkaikar c Pawar b Powar 11
M Rawat c Tare b Khan 68
A Yadav c Tendulkar b Abdulla 47
M Kartik c Tendulkar b Abdulla 41
K Upadhyay batting 19
A Singh batting 15
Extras: (B-4, LB-5, NB-3, W-0) 12
Total: (118 overs) 380 for 8 wkts
Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-31, 3-141, 4-156, 5-200, 6-263, 7-340, 8-348
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 20.5-5-41-1, Kulkarni 21-8-33-0, Agarkar 14-3-43-3, Powar 27-4-129-1, Abdulla 19-3-67-2, Nayar 14.1-1-55-1, Sharma 2-1-3-0.