Only about 300 people were present at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday, but they were treated to some outstanding batting from the South Zone batsmen on the third day of their Duleep Trophy quarterfinal against Central Zone.
On a pitch that has settled down nicely into a batting beauty with more or less good carry, except for the odd ball hitting the cracks, South finished the penultimate day at 345 for six in their second innings.
Rahul Dravid helped himself to 118 on his home turf and in the company of Arjun Yadav (68) and Dinesh Karthik (103*), helped South take firm control. Karthik continued from where he left in the first innings, becoming the first South Zone batsmen, and the sixth overall, to score a century in each innings in the Duleep Trophy match.
Earlier, it took Lakshmipathi only two deliveries in the morning to knock back Umesh Yadav’s off stump. Central could not add any to their overnight score of 326, thus conceding a three-run lead.
With South having stretched their lead to 348 by stumps, and showing no intentions of attempting an outright win, a semifinal clash with holders North looks well on the cards for VVS Laxman’s team.
The South batsmen played some breathtaking shots right through the day, with none of the Central bowlers except from Pankaj Singh, troubling them. Pankaj seemed to have given Central an chance to sneak back into the match when he cleaned Abhinav Mukund and induced S Badrinath to nick one.
But a couple of missed chances — Arjun dropped on zero and Dravid being caught off a no-ball — proved costly for Central as Dravid looked in sublime touch en route to his hundred. With Laxman not fit to bat after twisting his ankle during warm-up, Dravid had to shoulder more responsibility. He did that brilliantly with two back-to-back century stands — 154 with Arjun and 125 with Kartik.