South hopes rest on Badri, Vijay
G. Krishnan (from Ahmedabad)
HOLDERS NORTH Zone have almost shut South Zone out of the game by taking a 142-run first innings lead. Having lost their first five wickets on Saturday for only 104, North seemed to be under pressure when the two overnight batsmen took guard on Sunday. But middle-order batsman Yashpal Singh from Services took the responsibility on his shoulders to help North post 299 in reply to South's paltry 157.
At stumps on the second day of this Duleep Trophy tie, South were 95 for two in their second dig, the Tamil Nadu pair of Murali Vijay and captain S. Badrinath still keen to make amends for their first innings ducks.
The right-handed batsman, Yashpal, missed out on a century by just three runs. But importantly for his team, he built fruitful partnerships with the lower order.
Yashpal, who walked in at 60 for three on Saturday, was the eighth wicket to fall. He fell to South's most successful bowler, R Vinay Kumar, who took four for 87 to add to his rich haul of 40 for Karnataka this season.
Resuming on 24, Yashpal and the left-handed wicket-keeper batsman Uday Kaul ensured that North overhaul South's score without further casualty. They did it comfortably as the South bowlers proved ineffective during the morning session. Only one wicket fell in the first session, that of Kaul for 33 (77b, 3x4). He was caught behind off a Vinay delivery.
South were unlucky to lose 'keeper Thilak Naidu due to finger injury in the morning session. Naidu might not bat again.
Meanwhile, Kaul helped Yashpal add 71 for the sixth wicket.
Yashpal looked solid, never giving bowlers even half a chance. He danced down the pitch to left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, depositing him straight into the sightscreen.
South bowling, especially the spinners, lacked bite. Ojha, who is rated very highly, looked unimpressive. Even off-spinner R Ashwin was less than ordinary.
With the tail holding on, Yashpal batted freely. With Rana (28, 54b, 3x4, 1x6), he added 46 for the seventh, and put on 47 more for the eighth with Amit Mishra (47, 56b, 7x4, 1x6). Yashpal's five-hour long vigil finally ended when he was caught at gully off Vinay.
South's miseries didn't end there. The last wicket duo of Mishra and left-handed Ashok Thakur yielded 36.
South Zone's second innings were off to an inauspicious start. D Ravi Teja fell to a rash shot. Swapnil Asnodkar and Vijay then added 54 runs for the second wicket before the former fell for 37.
South Zone 1st innings: 157
North Zone 1st innings (overnight 104 for 5):
Chopra lbw Vinay 37, Dhawan c Teja b Aiyappa 23, Goel c Vijay b Aiyappa 0, Manhas b Vinay 3, Yashpal c Teja b Vinay 97, Bhatia c Ashwin b Ojha 8, Kaul c Vijay b Vinay 33, Rana c Asnodkar b Ashwin 28, Mishra b Kalyankrishna 47, Malik b Aiyappa 5, Thakur not out 6
Extras (b-9, lb-3) 12
Total (in 88.5 overs) 299
Fall of wkts: 1-58, 2-58, 3-60, 4-65, 5-94, 6-165, 7-211, 8-258, 9-263.
Bowling: Vinay 24-4-87-4, Kalyankrishna 15.5-4-40-1, Aiyappa 20-1-54-3, Ojha 19-2-79-1, Ashwin 10-2-27-1.
South Zone 2nd innings:
Ravi Teja c Rana b Malik 15, Asnodkar c Thakur b Rana 37, Vijay batting 24, Badrinath batting 10
Extras (lb-3, nb-6) 9
Total (for 2 wkts, 29 overs) 95
Fall of wkts: 1-24, 2-78.
Bowling: Malik 10-0-52-1, Thakur 7-2-10-0, Bhatia 6-2-13-0, Rana 4-0-9-1, Mishra 1-0-4-0, Manhas 1-0-4-0.
Kaif, the Central figure in fightback
Abhishek Hore (from Rajkot)
MOHAMMAD KAIF is not one of those batsmen who give bowlers nightmares by bludgeoning them to all parts of the ground. But what makes him stand out is his canny ability to improvise - often to such an extent that he'd frustrate the opposition by placing the ball into the gaps with alarming regularity.
After Yusuf Pathan blazed his way to a 51-ball hundred the day before, it was Kaif's turn on Sunday to exhibit his own brand of cricket to the motley crowd at the Madhav Rao Scindia Stadium.
His invaluable 96 runs helped Central Zone finish Day 2 at a respectable 237 for five in reply to West Zone's challenging 411 in their Duleep Trophy match.
Kaif strode in after Siddharth Trivedi had Tanmay Srivastava offering a lolly to Cheteshwar Pujara at cover. It was a big blow as Srivastava had just scored a hundred in the Ranji Trophy final against Delhi, and a substantial contribution here might have helped Central finish the day with far more than what they have on the board now. Nevertheless, with two day remaining, it could still be anybody's game thanks to Kaif's act of bravado.
With wickets falling around him, Kaif held his nerve and was a picture of concentration. The skipper ran hard, improvised and found the occasional boundary.
Opportunities weren't many though with Munaf Patel leading the way for West. Coming back to competitive cricket after a hiatus, the lanky seamer bowled with purpose and managed to test the Central batsmen on a wicket that has nothing for them. He gave his team the breakthrough by removing Vineet Saxena with one that moved away after pitching.
In his second spell, Munaf had Harshad Rawle caught behind in a similar fashion. Central were struggling at 91 for 4 and Sanjay Bangar's dismissal to left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruve at 134 made it worse. Another wicket at that stage and the game might have taken a different shape.
But fortunately, there were no hiccups thereafter as Kaif along with Mahesh Rawat stitched together a crucial 103-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Central have already avoided the follow-on and looming large on Monday is a century from Kaif.
West Zone 1st innings
Kukreja c Rawat b Sanyal 72, Rahane c Kaif b Sanyal 50, P. Patel c Sanyal b Bangar 3, Pujara b Bangar 44, Solanki c Rawle b Tyagi 25, Y. Pathan c Rawle b Sanyal 107, Powar c sub (P. Gupta) b Bangar 9, Dhurv lbw b Bangar 21, S. Jobanputra c Kaif b Sanyal 45, M. Patel not out 14, S. Trivedi lbw b Kartik 5
Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-1, nb-10) 16
Total (all out; 103.1 overs) 411
Fall of wkts: 1-124, 2-129, 3-129, 4-174, 5-310, 6-310, 7-320, 8-349, 9-405
Bowling: S. Bangar 29-9-72-4, S. Tyagi 13-1-64-1, M. Kartik 22.1-4-78-1, S. Mathur 15-2-67-0, S. Sanyal 22-2-113-4, J. Saxena 2-0-12-0
Central Zone 1st innings
V. Saxena c P. Patel b M. Patel 2, T. Srivastava c Rahane b Trivedi 12, J. Saxena lbw b Dhurv 46, M. Kaif batting 96, H. Rawle c P. Patel b M. Patel 3, S. Bangar c P. Patel b Dhurv 26, M. Rawat batting 40.
Extras (b-4, lb-2, nb-6) 12
Total (for 5 wkts; 74 overs) 237
Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-49, 3-73, 4-91, 5-134
Bowling: M. Patel 16-3-59-2, S. Jobanputra 15-3-45-0, S. Trivedi 17-2-61-1, R. Dhurv 19-10-38-2, R. Powar 6-2-22-0, Y. Pathan 1-0-6-0.