Rao's ton puts Rest on top in Irani Trophy

Published: Saturday, September 25, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali:Venugopala Rao struck a century that guided Rest of India to a commanding position against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai in the Irani Trophy cricket tie at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Friday.

Andhra Pradesh batsman Rao took the Mumbai bowling by the scruff of its neck and helped Rest reach 363 for nine, a massive lead of 479, at close on the third day. Rao perished while trying to impose himself on the rival bowlers, but not before his 113 from 205 balls filled with 14 fours and a six had taken the match away from Mumbai.

Mumbai were once again guilty of leaving the job unfinished as Rest recovered from a precarious 125 for five through a century partnership between Rao and Parthiv Patel.Patel contributed a vital 68, and during his three hour and 39 minutes stay at the crease, added 162 runs for the sixth wicket with Rao.

Zaheer Khan then rubbed salt in Mumbai's wounds, plundering 46 off 41 balls with three fours and four sixes. With two more days remaining, a result is assured. Mumbai, who had conceded a 116-run first innings lead on Thursday, fought their way back into the match with captain Sairaj Bahutule striking twice in the morning session.

Resuming at 82 for two, Rest lost their skipper Dinesh Mongia (12) in the 10th over of the day. Bahutule then had the other overnight batsman, opener Aakash Chopra, caught and bowled before luring Joginder Sharma into the hands of Ramesh Powar at long off. With only an hour into the third day's play, it looked as if Rest had blown up their chances. But Rao and Patel proved to be a thorn in Mumbai's skin.

After a cautious start when he was repeatedly beaten outside the off by Salvi, Rao opened up with an uppish cut between gully and point off the same bowler. Patel gave ample support at the other end. From 161 for five at lunch, Rest moved to 250 for no loss.

Following Rao and Patel's dismissal, Mumbai were hoping to run through the tail as fast as possible, but Zaheer had other plans. The India player flexed his muscles to such effect that Bahutule's bowling figures were tarnished beyond recognition and the leg-spinner finished with three for 92.

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