Kaif, Ojha steady Central ship | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Kaif, Ojha steady Central ship

Central Zone are within four runs of taking the first innings lead but they have only one wicket in hand when the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal resumes on the third day. G Krishnan reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 23, 2009 23:51 IST
G Krishnan

Central Zone are within four runs of taking the first innings lead but they have only one wicket in hand when the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal resumes on the third day.

On an absorbing day on Friday, South Zone's medium-pacers - S Sreesanth, L Balaji and Robin Uthappa - shared seven wickets, but let Central off the hook, dropping four catches.

Replying to South's 329, Central were 326 for nine at stumps with No 11 Umesh Yadav hoping that he can survive the rest of Balaji's unfinished over on Saturday.

Surviving the first hour of play has been a challenge on both days of this match. Tanmay Srivastava and Shivakant Shukla struggled against the seam and swing of Sreesanth and Balaji.

South, who went in to the match with only two mediumpacers, were forced to press Uthappa into service. With his gentle medium-pace Uthappa drew first blood when Srivastava edged down the leg side to the wicket-keeper.

From 52 for no loss, Central slid to 78 for four with Balaji and Sreesanth striking repeatedly. Barring Shukla, who was bowled, the rest of the top order fell to edges behind the wicket.

However, as the ball lost shine, the fifth-wicket duo of Md Kaif (73, 118b, 11x4, 1x6) and Naman Ojha (85, 168b, 7x4, 2x6) settled down nicely, raising 127. Kaif played a captain's knock and Ojha kept the scoreboard ticking, occasionally going after the spinners. Kaif showed his strength on the on side and until he pulled Suresh to long-on, he was in complete command of his strokes.

With Ojha growing in confidence and approaching his century, the second new ball did the trick as Sreesanth trapped him with a slower one.

Central fought on through Piyush Chawla (35) and Murali Kartik (23 batting) but have their backs to the wall. Irrespective of who takes the lead this match is well poised for an outright result.