Mandeep Singh made the most of a life to score his second first-class century in only his fifth game and the lower middle order showed the patience to drop anchor in the final session to help North Zone reach a comfortable 315 for 5 on the opening day of the Duleep Trophy semifinal against defending champions West Zone on Wednesday.
Nineteen-year-old Mandeep walked in after just three balls had been bowled after North opted to bat. He was not scared to pull the new-ball bowlers Jaidev Unadkat and Samad Fallah, and used his feet to great effect against the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja and Bhargav Bhatt.
The approach looked dangerous at the start and had Ajinkya Rahane managed to latch on to a difficult chance at gully when Mandeep was on 25 and the team total on 30, the story could have been different.
But that did not happen and Mandeep’s game plan allowed other opener Shikhar Dhawan (21) to settle down. When it looked like the southpaw was gearing himself for a long haul, he hooked Fallah straight to Harshad Khadiwale on the square leg fence.
The wicket followed the best period of the innings for North as the experienced Mithun Manhas (58) joined Mandeep and the duo treated the West bowlers with disdain.
They added 104 for the third wicket in just 135 balls and made West captain Wasim Jaffer look silly for choosing an all-spin attack from both ends.
Manhas picked Jadeja for some severe treatment, hitting him over the sight screen and then following up with a drive through extra cover on successive deliveries. But a similar attempt against Bhatt brought about his downfall as the miscued hit barely reached Cheteshwar Pujara at mid-on.
The departure of Manhas forced Mandeep to slow down and the Jalandhar boy dropped anchor. But his concentration suffered after crossing the landmark and Rahane had no problem in accepting the simple offering off Unadkat.
Central in command
Manish Pandey justified his reputation of being the most sought after uncapped Indian player as he smashed his way to an unbeaten 203 as South Zone notched up 416 for eight against Central on the first day of the Duleep Trophy semi-final at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Uppal.