Bowlers call the shot
G Krishnan ( from Ahmedabad)
Duleep Trophy debutants Vikramjit Singh Malik and Rajat Bhatia shared nine wickets as North Zone dismissed South for 157 on the first day at the Sardar Patel Stadium (Motera) on Saturday.
In reply, North were 104-5 after being 58 without loss at one stage.
Malik, the 24-year-old medium-pacer from Himachal Pradesh, claimed his victims in the opening burst of nine overs, to finish with five for 44. Bhatia, 28, captured 4 for 13 to justify captain Mithun Manhas' decision to bowl first.
On the green top, Malik and Bhatia stuck to bowling wicket-to-wicket with the Kookaburra ball. But that South openers Ravi Teja and Swapnil Asnodkar shared a 37-run stand was proof that the pitch was not a batsman's nightmare. And the face-saving 68-run ninth wicket partnership between Vinay Kumar (41 not out) and Kalyankrishna (31) proved beyond doubt that application could fetch runs.
Asnodkar might have had a phenomenal season for Goa, amassing 568 runs at 113.60, but he fell short on Saturday, losing his middle stump to Malik. From 37 for no loss, South were 84 for eight in the space of 15 overs.
Watching the procession at the other end was Teja, who stroked half-a-dozen fours in his 41 before falling prey to Thakur.
It was then Bhatia's turn to get into the act and claim the remaining wickets. His victims included R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
Playing some neat strokes, Vinay and Kalyan frustrated the North bowlers for almost two hours. South's innings ended 28 minutes before tea when Bhatia induced Kalyan to nick one behind and then yorked N.C. Aiyappa.
North's reply was brisk with Aakash Chopra (37) and Shikhar Dhawan (23) raising 58 in 11.2 overs. But medium-pacer Aiyappa gave the breakthrough by getting Dhawan brilliantly caught by Teja.
The defending champions then lost four wickets for seven runs in the gap of 23 deliveries - Karan Goel was caught at second slip for a first-ball duck, Chopra was trapped leg before by Vinay with one that straightened and captain Manhas fell to the same bowler.
Yashpal Singh and Bhatia looked like playing it out before Bhatia drove Ojha straight to mid-wicket to become the left-arm spinner's first victim.
South Zone 1st innings
S. Asnodkar b Malik 16, R. Teja c Kaul b Thakur 41, M. Vijay lbw b Malik 0, S. Badrinath b Malik 0, A. Yadav b Malik 8, T. Naidu c Kaul b Malik 0, R Ashwin c Goel b Bhatia 0, V. Kumar not out 41, P. Ojha c Chopra b Bhatia 4, D. Kalyankrishna c Kaul b Bhatia 31, N. Aiyappa b Bhatia 1
Extras (lb 4, nb 11) 15
Total (all out; 55.5 overs) 157
Fall of wkts: 1-37, 2-37, 3-43, 4-63, 5-69, 6-72, 7-76, 8-84, 9-152.
Bowling: V.S. Malik 16-2-44-5, A.K. Thakur 16-3-58-1, R. Bhatia 10.5-5-13-4, S. Rana 7-4-6-0, A. Mishra 6-2-32-0.
North Zone 1st innings
A. Chopra lbw b V. Kumar 37, S. Dhawan c R. Teja b Aiyappa 23, K. Goel c Vijay b Aiyappa 0, M. Manhas b V. Kumar 3, Yashpal Singh batting 24, R. Bhatia c Yadav b Ojha 8, U. Kaul batting 4
Extras (b 5) 5
Total (for 5 wkts; 31 overs) 104
Fall of wkts: 1-58, 2-58, 3-60, 4-65, 5-94
Bowling: V. Kumar 11-1-45-2, D. Kalyankrishna 9-2-26-0, N. Aiyappa 8-1-22-2, P. Ojha 3-1-6-1
Pathan blitz lights up Rajkot
Abhishek Hore (from Rajkot)
Before the start of the Duleep Trophy match between West Zone and Central Zone at the Madhavrao Scindia Stadium, a reporter informed that the historical ground had been witness to some breathtaking cricket.
True to tradition, spectators who braved the swirling conditions on Saturday witnessed something similar - or may be even better - from a man answering to the name of Yusuf Pathan. His 66-ball 107 smashed Mohammad Kaif and his boys to smithereens as West finished the first day at 349 for seven.
Batting first after winning the toss, West slumped to 174-4 from a comfortable 112 for no loss at lunch. Skipper Parthiv Patel's team seemed to have frittered away the advantage after Mumbaikars Sahil Kukreja and Ajankya Rahane had given them a solid start.
Even as panic gripped the West camp, Pathan was a picture of poise and a lofted six over deep mid-off off S.S. Sanyal started his blitzkrieg. What followed for the next 88 minutes was mayhem. The over-pitched deliveries were caressed through the ground, the good-length ones were lofted with consummate ease and those pitched short were pulled and hooked with great power.
None of the Central bowlers escaped Pathan's punishment, the worst sufferers being medium-pacers Sumeet Mathur and Sanyal. After they were carted to all parts of the ground, Kaif introduced the wily Murali Kartik. But the going got even tougher as the left-arm spinner did not make much of a difference and Pathan smashed him for three boundaries and a six.
Giving Pathan support at the other end was the calm Cheteshwar Pujara, who went on to make 44. Though not as aggressive as the former, the Ranji season's highest scorer grafted runs in his own way.
Central's nightmare ended when Harshad Rawle took a well-judged catch off Sanyal to send the marauder back. But by then, West had already muscled their way back into the match.
At stumps, Rakesh Dhruv (21) and Sandeep Jobanputra (4) were at the crease. For Central, Sanyal and Sanjay Banger took three wickets each.
West Zone 1st innings
S. Kukreja c Rawat b Sanyal 72, A. Rahane c Kaif b Sanyal 50, P. Patel c Sanyal b Bangar 3, C. Pujara b Bangar 44, R. Solanki c Rawle b Tyagi 25, Y.Pathan c Rawle b Sanyal 107, R. Powar c sub (P. Gupta) b Bangar 9, R. Dhurv not out 21, S. Jobanputra not out 4
Extras (b 4, w 1, nb 9) 14
Total (for 7 wkts; 90 overs) 349
Fall of wkts: 1-124, 2-129, 3-129, 4-174, 5-310, 6-310, 7-320
Bowling: S. Bangar 24-8-55-3, S. Tyagi 13-1-64-1, M. Kartik 18-4-57-0, S. Mathur 15-2-67-0, S. Sanyal 18-2-90-3, J. Saxena 2-0-12-0.