Nagpur: Saurashtra batsmen survived nasty body blows from Umesh Yadav during their gallant fight against Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy final on Wednesday, which is now on even keel after third day.
Resuming at a precarious 158 for five, Saurashtra's lower order batsmen showed remarkable gumption and grit to take the first innings to 307, just five short of hosts' first innings total.
With the first innings lead virtually nullified, Vidarbha in their second innings lost skipper Faiz Fazal (10) and R Sanjay (16) to left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (2/36) before ending the day at 55 for two.
The hosts now lead by 60 runs with reliable Wasim Jaffer (5) and Ganesh Satish (24) at the crease.
There are six sessions left in the match and Saurashtra, who have had a happy knack of chasing down fourth innings totals, will certainly fancy their chances.
Overnight batsman Snell Patel (102) completed his first century of the season and when India pacer Umesh Yadav sent him back after smacking one on his helmet, Saurashtra were still 128 runs away from Vidarbha's total of 312 all out.
Patel had also taken one hit on his hand as Yadav seemed unplayable with his raw pace and bounce. The chubby wicket-keeper batsman was later taken for an MRI scan, which came clear.
Umesh did intimidate Saurashtra with his small yet brute intermittent spells, during which he also hit overnight batsman Prerak Mankad on his shoulder.
However, what followed after both Patel and Mankad's dismissals was an extraordinary fightback by Saurashtra's tail, which batted out two sessions including the extended one in the morning.
The team was gasping for breath at 184 for seven but Kamlesh Makwana (27 off 61 balls) and Jadeja (23 off 32) added 38 runs for the eighth wicket stand.
Jadeja found even fluent drives off Umesh and comfortably lofted spinners to add some quick runs while Makwana was going steady, rotating the strike.
Off-spinner Akshay Wakhare broke the partnership by getting Makwana caught in the first slip and Sarwate got rid of Jadeja in the same fashion to complete his five-wicket haul.
But there was no respite for the hosts as captain Jaydev Unadkat (46) then produced one of the best knocks of his first class career by digging in his heels with Chetan Sakariya (28).
They piled on frustration of Vidarbha by batting for 26.5 overs to add 60 runs for the last wicket as they got tantalisingly close to a first-innings lead.
Vidarbha tired all their options but could not break Unadkat and Sakariya's dogged resistance.
Throughout his innings, Unadkat kept sweeping the spinners even as Sakaria was hit on the back of his helmet by a nasty Umesh bouncer in his gritty knock.
Vidarbha could only wait for a mistake to happen and Unadkat's innings ended when he swept one straight to square leg fielder Sanjay.
In Vidarbha's second essay, Sanjay survived a strong leg-before appeal, a caught and bowled chance off Makwana before finally getting stumped by Jadeja, who had also bowled rival skipper.
In the morning session, Vidarbha hit the ground at an advantageous position but Saurashtra clawed their way back.
Umesh banged it short and fast and had better control over line but it was left-arm spinner Sarwate, who provided the first breakthrough when he trapped Mankad, with a straighter one while the batsman played for turn.
Patel though kept going strong and got to the three-figure mark by sweeping Akshay Karnewar. After bowling five wicket-less overs from the North end, Umesh changed and succeeded in getting Patel caught behind.
It was clear that Patel, after taking a nasty blow above his right ear, was not comfortable and became tentative as he edged an away going delivery....