Mumbai: Rohit Sharma slammed a strokeful, unbeaten 163 as Mumbai replied strongly to Punjab`s mammoth first-innings total on the penultimate day of their four-day Ranji Trophy Group A league tie at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.
The 25-year-old Sharma, who is yet to fulfill his dream of becoming a Test cricketer after having played the first of his 85 ODIs five years ago, struck 19 fours and three sixes in his 243-ball innings. Mumbai were 364 for three in 109 overs at the close of play.
Giving company to Sharma, who compiled his 14th first class ton, was in-form batsman Hiken Shah, who was not out on a watchful 54 off 163 balls with five fours.
The home team was 216 runs behind Punjab`s 580 with plenty of batting to come.
The fourth-wicket duo, who came together at the fall of Kaustubh Pawar - dismissed by Harbhajan Singh - have so far added 171 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket in 329 balls, Sharma`s contribution being 108.
The second and third wicket partnerships also fetched Mumbai 74 and 87 runs respectively.
Mumbai, 69 for the loss of Aditya Tare`s wicket yesterday, added 295 runs while losing Ajinkya Rahane and Pawar (78 in 176 balls with 9 fours), during the day.
For Punjab, Harbhajan, Manpreet Gony and Sidharth Kaul shared the three wickets.
With Sharma and Shah -- who came into the game with three back-to-back Ranji hundreds against his name -- going strong and Abhishek Nayar - the second-best run getter for the team behind Shah this season - skipper Ajit Agarkar and Ankit Chavan to follow, Punjab have their task cut out.
Brief scores: Punjab 580. Mumbai 364 for 3 in 109 overs (Kaustubh Pawar 78, Rohit Sharma 163 batting, Hiken Shah 54 batting; Manpreet Gony 1-68, Sidharth Kaul 1-55, Harbhajan Singh 1-71).
Sharma said after the day's play that what he had planned initially worked out well and he was happy with the way he batted overall.
"I was pretty confident going into this innings. I just wanted to play initial 40-50 balls and from there on take it forward. I think it went according to my plan.
"Before the season I was on top of my game. I was hitting the ball well. Some shots go according to the plan and some don't. I was happy with the way I batted today. It was fluent. It doesn't end here. I have to carry on tomorrow and get as many runs as possible."
He also had words of praise for his partner Shah, with whom he shared an unbeaten 171-run partnership and said he is one of the best batters in the team.
"Hiken and Nayar are the best batsmen in our team right now. Both have been scoring consistently and batting pretty well. A lot of responsibility on their shoulders, as well. Hiken exactly proved it today," he said.
Though selected in the Indian squad for the two T20 internationals against England, Sharma said he was focused on the task at hand.
"The knock was very important for me and the team. I am not thinking about T20. The next for me is tomorrow's game, where we have to bat well and get to 581 runs, so that we get three points. The attempt is to make the team win those three points and after that I will think about T20."