With a tinge of green, the MA Chidambaram pitch promised some excitement. However, the first day of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal between West Zone and North Zone panned out without much extravagance.
At the draw of stumps on Saturday, North Zone had lumbered to 251 for three, thanks to
Shikhar Dhawan's 101, after having chosen to bat.
The first hour provided the pacers with movement off the pitch. Dhawan and Rahul Dewan poked at deliveries and had some near misses before the pitch eased out. Thereafter, the duo took control and stitched together a 164-run partnership for the opening wicket.
Coming into the match after having run up scores of unbeaten 99, 152 and 65 in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy, Dhawan carried on in the same vein.
Unlike the dash of aggression that laced his innings in the one-dayers, the left-hander showed he could be patient too if needed. He was cautious while there was some movement, but the big flowing drives returned once he crossed 50.
When left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh changed to the press box end, Dhawan smashed five boundaries in an over. As the last of the five rushed to the cover boundary, Dhawan had moved from 81 to 101 in the span of six balls.
The helmet and the bat were raised in typical-Dhawan style, but the pause was longer as he soaked in the applause from his teammates. Maybe the North Zone skipper values the three-figure mark in the four-day game more after a poor 2011/12 Ranji season.
He, however, didn't last long after celebrating the ton. An ambitious lunge down the wicket to slog off-spinner Kamlesh Makvana saw him stumped. Dewan too fell to the offie, caught at the first slip.
Later, Sunny Singh (46) and Nitin Saini (37*) guided the North Zone ship further with another steady stand. The West Zone bowlers stuck to a consistent line and length, but a slow pitch meant they did not have much to show for their effort in the wicket's column.