Saurashtra's middle and lower-order showed a lot of stomach for fight, adding 281 runs by No. 6 to 8 batters, but Rest of India remained firm favourites to win the Irani Cup match on Monday.
At stumps on third day, Saurashtra reached to 368-8, riding on half-centuries from the quartet comprising Sheldon Jackson (71), Arpit Vasavada (55), Prerak Mankad (72) and skipper Jaydev Unadkat (78 batting).
The overall lead is 92 runs now and Saurashtra will like to stretch it to at least 175 in order to set the cat among the pigeons.
With 276 runs in arrears, Saurashtra were literally staring at a humiliating innings defeat after being reduced to 87 for 5 before lunch.
Jackson, Vasavada steady Saurashtra
However, Jackson and Vasavada, who have bailed Saurashtra out many-a-times in the past, added 117 runs for the sixth wicket to steady the ship.
But, it was the 144-run eighth wicket stand between Unadkat and all-rounder Mankad that raised visions—however improbable it may look at the moment—of pulling off a heist.
The duo not only had a century stand but also scored the runs at a quick clip—in only 29.3 overs—to keep the contest alive. If it was Jackson who took the attack back to the opposition by repeatedly stepping out to left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar (3-80 in 25 overs) to disturb his length, the pair of Unadkat and Mankad used the extra pace of Kuldeep Sen (3/85 in 16 overs) and Umran Malik (0-59 in 16 overs) to their advantage.
They hit six sixes from the bowling of Jackson, Vasavada and Unadkat.
Pujara fails again
Cheteshwar Pujara (1) would like to forget this Irani Cup match in a hurry as a rookie pacer like Kuldeep made life difficult for him with his extra pace and bounce.
On this ground, Pujara has hardly failed but his lack of feet movement and late reaction to deliveries with that extra kick will surely not go unnoticed as far as selectors Chetan Sharma and Sunil Joshi are concerned.
The problems that has been his undoing at the Test level is now resurfacing at the domestic level where he earlier used to rule.
Bowlers with extra pace at the domestic level are also asking Pujara probing questions.
Kuldeep got one to rear up from length on the off-stump and Pujara just dangled his bat with KS Bharat taking an easy catch.
Saurashtra 98 & 368-8 (Jaydev Unadkat 78 batting, Prerak Mankad 72, Sheldon Jackson 71, Cheteshwar Pujara 1; Saurabh Kumar 3-80, Kuldeep Sen 3-85)
Rest of India 374
Saurashtra ahead by 92 runs