It seldom happens in the game of cricket that a team posts a massive first innings total, scalps some vital breakthroughs up front but then lets the game drift away in the middle-overs.
However, when such a thing happens, it is mainly due to something special from the opposition. This was the case for Tamil Nadu in their crucial third round encounter against Mumbai at the MCA Sharad Pawar Indoor Cricket Academy, Mumbai, as Washington Sundar and Baba Indrajith led a spirited fightback.
With the visiting side reeling at 69 runs for the loss of four wickets, all Mumbai had to do was capitalise on the situation and take control of the game. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen, and Aditya Tare, the skipper of the home team, gave an honest review of his team's performance after the end of the day's play.
"Not really on the happier side today. Look, at 75 for 4, we should have controlled the game a bit more. In the middle phase, the game drifted away from us. Credit to Indrajith for the way he batted with Washington Sundar. It was a good partnership, but I feel we did not bowl well after lunch."
Mumbai entered this humongous clash on the back of a first innings lead against Madhya Pradesh on their home turf. Despite that, they made a few changes to their playing XI for this encounter, drafting in an additional left-arm spinner, Aditya Dhumal.
Explaining the decision, Tare said, "Vijay is our strike bowler when it comes to spinners, and we decided to play Aditya Dhumal because the pitch looked a bit dry and I thought it would spin from the second or third day. The wicket is a bit slow, but the odd ball does turn on this surface."
The bowling unit of the Mumbai outfit struggled with line and length and it had mainly to do with the challenges posed by the left-right combination of Sundar and Indrajith.
"It is a challenge to set fields especially to batters who are good against spin, and both of them are good players of spin," he said.
The home team often turned to their senior-pro Abhishek Nayar to help them control the game and attack from the other end. Being a seasoned campaigner with loads of experience, the all-rounder is a vital cog of the bowling department.
"Abhishek is someone who bowls long spells because he is very consistent with his line and length. He controls the game for us and gets us wickets. It is hard to score runs against someone like him."
With wickets hard to come by in the final session of the day, the 41-time champions deployed a different strategy, attempting to bounce out the opposition batters which finally yielded them the wicket of the southpaw Washington.
"I felt we were a bit late on that. We should have had that strategy a bit earlier because we knew Washington was weak against short balls. It is not easy to bowl especially in the second session. The third session it does get a bit cooler, and there is a shadow on the pitch where there is some encouragement for the fast bowlers."
Despite the game not tilting in favour of the Mumbai team, there was one positive for them: the form of their wicket-keeper. After missing most of the pre-season due to an injury and opting out of the opening match against Madhya Pradesh citing personal reasons, he was outstanding behind the stumps, which helped his side in accounting for the important wicket of Vijay Shankar in the second session.
"I have been working hard on my keeping from the last four-five seasons, and I can contribute with the gloves as well for the team. If you are keeping in India, you have to be good against spinners. That is one quality that you need to have as a wicketkeeper."
The khadoos army are known to bounce back from difficult situations and the skipper would hope for exactly the same tomorrow. Mumbai need to find their line and length quickly if they are to pose a threat to the Tamil Nadu batting line up.
With plenty to play for in this epic battle, the third day looks set for an exciting finish as the teams will fight hard for the first innings lead.