Akshay Karnewar struck his maiden first-class century to hand Vidarbha a crucial 95-run first-innings lead before Rest of India, riding on a fighting partnership, erased the deficit in the Irani Cup on Thursday.

With Ajinkya Rahane (25) and Hanuma Vihari (40) walking back unbeaten at stumps, the third day’s play ended on an even keel.

First-innings centurion Vihari added 56 runs for the third wicket with skipper Rahane, which helped the visitors wipe off the deficit and finish the day seven runs ahead at 102/2 on a deteriorating pitch at the VCA Stadium.

The hosts, who resumed the day at 245/6, ended their first innings at 425 courtesy of Karnewar’s unbeaten 133-ball 102. The hosts had bowled Rest of India out for 330 in their first innings.

Karnewar has played just 11 first-class matches.

At the start of the day, Vidarbha’s hopes for a considerable first-innings largely depended on their wicket-keeper Akshay Wadkar, who was unbeaten on 50.

Wadkar (73) and Karnewar added 79 runs for the seventh wicket before the former was dismissed by young leg-spinner Rahul Chahar. Vidarbha needed another 24 runs to go ahead.

Karnewar, then, attacked, striking 13 fours and two sixes.

Seasoned off-spinner Akshay Wakahre (20) and pacer Rajneesh Gurbani (28 not out) supported Karnewar as the hosts extended their lead.

For ROI, Chahar (4/112) was the pick of the bowlers, while Karnataka spinner K Gowtham (2/33), Saurashtra spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (2/111) and UP pacer Ankit Rajpoot (2/84) were also among the wickets.

In their second innings, ROI opener Anmolpreet Singh (6) fell cheaply while India international Mayank Agarwal, who made 95 in the first innings, was dismissed for 27.

Vihari and Rahane ensured there was no further damage and held the innings together.

Brief scores

Rest of India 330 and 102/2 (Hanuma Vihari 40 not out, Mayank Agarwal 27, Akshay Wakhare 1/31) versus Vidarbha 425 (Akshay Karnewar 102, Akshay Wadkar 73, Sanjay Ramaswamy 65, Rahul Chahar 4/112, K Gowtham 2/33).