Mohammad Kaif showed once again why he is such a dangerous batsman if given an opportunity to settle down.
The Central Zone skipper scored his second consecutive century (112, 17x4) in Duleep Trophy — this time against South Zone in the semifinal — to help his team reach 300 for 7 at the Usha Raje Stadium on Tuesday.
Piyush Chawla, on the other hand, earned applause for his quickfire 50, which he scored with the help of seven boundaries and two sixes.
Central Zone should thank the two batsmen for bailing them out.
Reduced to 31 for 2, Kaif and Tanmay Srivastava steadied the innings with a 55-run partnership.
But once Srivastava departed, a middle-order collapse saw Central tottering on 154 for 6.
Just when it seemed it would be curtains for Central, Chawla and Kaif came together and ran riot, stroking a 118-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Earlier, the first three-and-a-half hours of the match belonged to Abhimanyu Mithun, as he removed Central's top-order and left them reeling at 86 for 3 at lunch. R. Vinay Kumar and C. Ganapathy gave him able support, keeping up the pressure at the other end.
Mithun has been the talk of the season, and on Tuesday, he showed why he is rated so highly.
Even before openers Sanjay Bangar (4) and Jalaj Saxena (7) could settle down, they fall prey to Mithun.
Bangar got a leg-before decision, while Saxena's stumps went flying.
Srivastava, who showed some patience, facing 106 deliveries for his 42, departed on the second-last ball before lunch when Badrinath caught a dolly the batsmen offered off Mithun.
New man Suresh Raina was gone first ball, trying to ward off a short-pitched delivery and ended up giving a catch to R. Ashwin at short extra cover off Sadab Jakati.