Himanshu Mantri’s century (126, 265b, 13×4, 1×6) served as the archetype of the steely resolve often associated with the longest format, laying the platform for Madhya Pradesh to pull ahead against Vidarbha on the second day of the first Ranji Trophy semifinal at the VCA Stadium (Civil Lines) here on Sunday.

The southpaw was handed a reprieve on 39 and made the most of it, forging innings-steering fifth-and sixth-wicket partnerships with Sagar Solanki and Saransh Jain, respectively.

Vidarbha, chasing a deficit of 82 runs, lost Atharva Taide, who was given leg-before-wicket while shouldering arms to a delivery that seamed back in. Dhruv Shorey and Akshay Wakhare took the home side to 13 for one at Stumps.

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The day started with the defiance of Mantri and Harsh Gawali but turned on its head after Vidarbha pacers exploited the two-paced nature of the wicket.

After adding just six runs to its overnight tally off the first six overs, Mantri broke the early morning snoozefest with a clip off his pads against Yash Thakur. Umesh Yadav lured Mantri into fishing outside off, only for Karun Nair to spill the chance at first slip.

If it had the worst end of the weather on the first day, the aid from the surface on the second was reparation of sorts for Vidarbha. Umesh and Thakur combined in the final hour of the morning session to send MP from 81 for one to 93 for four.

MP’s resistance was cracked when Thakur’s length ball skidded on and trapped Gawali in front. Umesh cleaned up Shubham Sharma before Thakur had Venkatesh Iyer plumb in front to pull Vidarbha back into the fray.

With their backs against the wall, Solanki and Mantri added 52 runs for the fifth wicket before a mix-up led to the former’s run out. But Mantri took matters into his own hands, dancing down to hoist Aditya Wakhare for four and six off back-to-back deliveries before getting to his third First-Class century of the season in 210 balls.

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Saransh imitated his partner as he stepped out against Wakhare to loft the off-spinner down the ground. But the tweaker had the last laugh when his length delivery held off the surface, causing Saransh to chip to covers, ending the sixth-wicket stand for 73 runs.

Mantri perished when wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar pre-meditated his sweep and pouched him down the leg. Thakur and Umesh returned to wrap up the tail, keeping the deficit below 100 runs.

Brief scores

Vidarbha – 170 (Karun Nair 63; Avesh Khan 4/49), 13/1 trails Madhya Pradesh 252 (Himanshu Mantri 126) by 69 runs


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