South Zone’s innings folded up when Vinay Kumar’s timber was rattled by an Iresh Saxena delivery. Even as the East Zone players celebrated, a dejected Kumar remained rooted in shock.
When he finally decided to walk back to the dressing room, he almost smacked the ball, lying near the stumps, with the bat.
Fortunes changed quickly, as he fired an in-swinger that castled Manish Vardhan’s stumps. This time, it was Kumar’s turn to punch the air in celebration.
The third day of the Duleep Trophy semifinal between South and East at the ACA-VDCA ground swung like a pendulum, quite like the extreme emotions the South skipper displayed.
Though South Zone capitulated on 244, 23 runs short of taking the first innings lead, an impressive bowling display presented the visitors with regular setbacks. Ultimately, East were struggling at 129 for six at stumps on Tuesday.
At the start of the day, the odds were stacked against East beating South to the first innings lead. The onus was on left-handed Amit Verma and Kumar to steer the hosts closer to the target.
While Verma was busy rotating the strike, Kumar decided to go on the offensive.
A couple of slog sweeps to the deep midwicket region from Kumar off Saxena’s left-arm spin saw South posing a threat.
Luck running out
Finally, Kumar’s luck ran out. East Zone were ecstatic, Kumar was disheartened and the game seemed to have slipped out of South’s grasp.
But, in the first over of East’s second innings, Kumar had reason to celebrate, as he sent Vardhan packing.
Further tight bowling did not allow the likes of Dheeraj Jadhav and Natraj Behera to score freely. Soon, Jadhav was trapped leg before.
At close, East were just 152 runs ahead with four wickets in hand and a full day’s play remaining. A possible cracker is on the cards.
East Zone 1st innings 267 South Zone 1st innings 244 (R Vinay Kumar 61, I Saxena 3/37). East Zone 2nd innings 129 for 6 (N Behera 60, S Binny 2/25)