The Indian First Class season has often had to jostle with the weather.
Sure enough, the opening day of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal, between South Zone and West Zone, did face harassment from the elements, but, mercifully, a substantial chunk of quality cricket was possible.
After the first session’s play on Thursday was ruled out owing to a wet outfield, action began at ten past noon. In the 54 overs that were bowled, two men showed a clear liking for the centre stage.
B. Aparajith (93 batting, 131b, 11x4, 1x5) and Manish Pandey (81 batting, 118b, 7x4, 1x6) played in a manner that suggested freedom from the fear of failure, their unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership yielding 161 runs in 38 overs.
Electing to bat, South — after having slipped to 52 for three — was the happier team at 213 for three when bad light stopped play.
The most striking aspect of the Aparajith-Pandey partnership — that was marked by gorgeous stroke-play and the youngsters’ remarkable poise — was the running between-the-wickets. For the most part, it was thrillingly bizarre; as quick as they were, a run-out seemed imminent. Aparajith, in his maiden Duleep game, could have been run out thrice, while Pandey barely managed to scrape through after he had backed up too far.
But the pressure they subjected the opponent to revealed itself in the mis-fields and overthrows.
Pandey constantly jumped out of the crease to counter the left-arm spin duo of Akshay Darekar and Rakesh Dhruv, and Yusuf Pathan’s off-breaks.
Aparajith made his day by unfurling the inside-out drives, interspersing them with a lofted hit or a nudge.
On a slow surface, Jaydev Unadkat and Murtuja Vahora had begun well. Opener Abhinav Mukund played on to the stumps, while P. Akshath Reddy was done in by Unadkat’s in-dipper.
Later, Aparajith said: “The ball was reversing, and we wanted to see off Vahora’s and Unadkat’s spells before tea,” he said. “Tomorrow, we need to bat as long as possible.”
The scores: South Zone — 1st innings: P. Akshath Reddy lbw b Unadkat 18, Abhinav Mukund b Vahora 4, K.L. Rahul lbw b Yusuf 6, B. Aparajith (batting) 93, M. Pandey (batting) 81, Extras (b-8, lb-1, w-2) 11; Total (for three wkts. in 54 overs) 213.
Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-22, 3-52.
West Zone bowling: Jaydev Unadkat 10-2-39-1, Murtuja Vahora 9-2-20-1, Yusuf Pathan 12-2-36-1, Rakesh Dhruv 11-1-54-0, Akshay Darekar 11-2-50-0, Ankit Bawne 1-0-5-0.