Dinesh Karthik, fresh from being dropped from the India squad, clattered an unbeaten 161 to bolster South Zone in the Duleep Trophy final in Hyderabad.
The Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper-batsman, who is leading South, had his work cut out after West Zone seamers Irfan Pathan and Dhaval Kulkarni made early inroads.
At 120 for four, South were in serious danger of squandering the advantage of winning the toss and electing to bat.
But Karthik, in typical fashion, counter-attacked, adding 120 for the fifth wicket with keeper CM Gautam and then 89 with Rohan Prem.
Karthik, who plundered 23 fours in his 277-ball innings, forged three crucial partnerships with middle-order batsmen to shape South’s first innings after a poor start.
Irfan Pathan dismissed South openers Srikkanth Anirudha (19) and KB Pawan (0) and Dhawal Kulkarni accounted for Arun Karthik (22) to reduce the rivals to 76 for three.
From here on, Karthik got into the act and batted with determination to take his team to a fighting total. He shared a 44-run stand for the fourth wicket Ganesh Satish (53) to steady the innings before Pathan (3 for 68) struck yet again and scalped the latter.
While the rest of South’s batsmen struggled, Karthik flourished, attacking every loose ball and missing few chances to push the field back. Karthik had struck 23 fours by the end of the day, and his 161 came off only 188 balls.
When stumps were drawn, Karthik had C Ganapathy, who scored two vital lower-order hundreds for Tamil Nadu in the last Ranji season, for company with the score reading 356 for six. Guatam missed out on his half-century but he did a great job before becoming the victim of Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 58).
“Spectators out for security reasons”
The match, taking place at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, began on a strange note, with spectators being barred from entering the venue.
The Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) decided to take this extreme step after an unruly crowd walked onto the field, uprooted stumps and staged a protest near the pavilion on January 21 during a Twenty20 match that was eventually abandoned.
With the political situation staying volatile in the southern city, the HCA did not want to take any chances.
“The gates have been closed for security reasons, we wanted the match to go on uninterrupted,” Shivlal Yadav, HCA vice president, said.
“The BCCI did not tell us to do this, it is up to the home association to take a decision on such matters.”