On Monday when Mumbai were 70 for five replying to Madhya Pradesh's 192 in their Ranji Trophy quarter-final in Indore, coach Sulakshan Kulkarni insisted that Mumbai needed just one good partnership to come out of the slump they were in. The coach's prediction came true as young middle-order batsman Kaustubh Pawar carried his bat through the day for a patient, unbeaten 160.

Batsman Kaustubh Pawar helped Mumbai take first innings honours
against Madhya Pradesh in Indore yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

The 21-year-old batsman -- well assisted by lower-order batsmen Hiken Shah (41), Dhawal Kulkarni (40) and Ankeet Chavan (57 not out) -- helped Mumbai score 346 for seven, thus gaining a lead of 154 with three wickets to spare at close on Day Two at the Holkar Stadium yesterday.

"I was given a role to play and I am happy to be instrumental in putting Mumbai in the driver's seat," Pawar told MiD DAY from Indore.

Second ton
The batsman, who scored his second century in his six-match first-class career, admitted that the wicket wasn't helpful to the bowlers as it was on Day One. "The wicket got slower, but I had to stick to my plan of not taking any unnecessary risks. Since I can play defensively, I knew I had to shoulder the responsibility after we lost a few quick wickets," Pawar said.

The youngster used the tiredness of the bowlers to pull Mumbai out of a tough situation. "As the wicket got slower, bowlers looked tired and their efforts were not the same as it was on the first day, so I capitalised on that," the batsman felt.

Looking ahead, Mumbai's aim today is to bat as long as possible and put the opponents under pressure for an outright win. "There's no target for us. We will try and bat for maximum overs left in six more sessions and then press for victory. Our strategy is to push the score as much as possible by keeping wickets intact tomorrow," Pawar signed off.