The M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday morning betrayed few traces of what had transpired the day before. Bedecked with crisp, benign sunshine, the arena’s appearance was in glorious contrast to the gloom caused by the surly clouds on Thursday.
For West Zone, too, soothing tidings appeared to be in sight. The team commenced work with noteworthy stinginess, the first four overs yielding as many runs.
That pattern was torn asunder as Manish Pandey (213, 303b, 399m, 13x4, 5x6, 8x3) and B. Aparajith (212, 351b, 493m, 17x4, 1x6, 1x5, 4x3) returned to re-assert South Zone’s superiority on day two of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal.
At the end of a day that was delightful or weary — depending on where your allegiance lies — but ultimately, one on which bowlers suffered, South Zone went to stumps on 553 for seven.
Earlier, Aparajith, in the course of his panic-free knock, found his way into the record books.
He became the fourth cricketer to score a double-century on Duleep debut after Rakesh Parikh, Mohammad Azharuddin, and Sanjay Manjrekar.
He was, however, comfortably outscored by Pandey in the first session. The latter, who zoomed to 99, was dropped by ‘keeper Motwani off Jaydev Unadkat.
He duly got his hundred off the next ball.
Matters weren’t that cushy for Aparajith, who spent 24 agonising minutes on 99. The landmark eventually arrived via a misfield. Not too long ago, Pandey had retired hurt with a groin injury (the team’s score reading 242 for three), and the new batsman, C.M. Gautam, had departed offering no shot.
This gave West a sniff which, though, was counteracted by Aparajith and Rohan Prem. Pandey came back when Rohan was out hooking to fine-leg after lunch.
While Aparajith compulsively played the back-glide, Pandey earned his corn with swipes and ramrod-straight strikes.
When Aparajith was dismissed, the duo had put on 330 runs batting together for nearly six hours. Pandey was out leg before in the final session.
Speaking to the press, Pandey was the loquacious counterpoint to Aparajith’s subdued self. “We allowed each other to play his natural game. We knew it was our day,” said Pandey.
Aparajith added that although they didn’t communicate much, “some quick ones and twos, though risky, were putting pressure on the opponent.”
Pandey said South would look to pile some more runs before declaring.
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 (run-out) 212, M. Pandey lbw b Dhruv 213, C.M. Gautam lbw b Darekar 0, Rohan Prem c Dhruv b Vahora 35, Malolan Rangarajan (batting) 26, Vinay Kumar (batting) 19; Extras (b-9, lb-1, nb-2, pen-5, w-3): 20; Total (for seven wkts. in 152 overs): 553.
Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-22, 3-52, 4-242, 5-333, 6-473, 7-521.
West Zone bowling: Unadkat 21-2-88-1, Vahora 18-5-36-2, Yusuf Pathan 22-3-62-1, Dhruv 42-3-163-1, Darekar 44-7-164-1, Bawne 2-0-13-0, Waghmode.3-0-12-0.