The sun was out, the surface was drier, and a dogged South Zone consolidated against Central in the Duleep Trophy semifinal at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
South, after dismissing Central for 209, was 137 for two at stumps on the second day. The left-right pair of Abhinav Mukund (61 batting, 195b, 5x4) and B. Aparajith (35 batting, 100b, 2x4) has so far added an unbeaten 64 in 32.2 overs for the third wicket.
The going was slow, but a determined South consolidated.
Mukund had issues with his stance and body balance last season — he was falling over a tad — and consequently suffered. The southpaw has worked on it and his body weight was better distributed here and he got behind the line solidly.
The technically sound Aparajith is adept off his back-foot and the youngster was composed at the wicket.
The Central attack looked up to Umesh Yadav, but the paceman erred by bowling a wrong line when he pitched the ball up; ideally, he should have hit the seam from back of a length or the good length on the grassy surface here.
Skipper Piyush Chawla’s leg-spin lacked fizz. Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena, with his clean high-arm action, did get some bounce but the South batsmen handled him cautiously.
Opener Akshath Reddy, caught at mid-on off a Chawla long-hop, and K.L. Rahul, inside-edging a Yadav inswinger, disappointed before Mukund and Aparajith joined forces.
Earlier, the clean-striking Chawla made an enterprising 80-ball 56 (4x4, 3x6) before being brilliantly held at long-on by Rahul off Pragyan Ojha.
There was turn and bounce for Aparajith, bowling off-spin, from round the wicket to the left-hander.
Left-armer Ojha, getting the ball to hang in the air, had his moments. Malolan Rangarajan — he has now added a flatter delivery with revolutions to his flighted stuff — posed problems by straightening the odd one.
Central Zone — 1st innings: M. Dagar c Gautam b Mithun 45, V. Saxena b Mithun 0, M. Kaif b Mithun 6, R. Bist lbw b Ojha 18, S. Srivastava lbw b Malolan 22, N. Ojha lbw b Malolan 23, P. Chawla c Rahul b Ojha 56, J. Saxena c Akshath b Aparajith 19, S. Wagh c Abhinav b Aparajith 2, Imtiaz c sub (B. Sumanth) b Ojha 7, Umesh (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-1, nb-9): 11; Total (in 85.4 overs): 209.
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-13, 3-69, 4-76, 5-119, 6-152, 7-194, 8-198, 9-203.
South Zone bowling: Abhimanyu Mithun 14-5-29-3, Sandeep Warrier 15-4-36-0, Manish Pandey 3-0-9-0, Pragyan Ojha 25.4-14-49-3, Malolan Rangarajan 21-4-61-2, Abhinav Mukund 1-0-10-0, B. Aparajith 6-3-13-2.
South Zone — 1st innings: Abhinav (batting) 61, Akshath c Srivastava b Piyush 16, K.L. Rahul b Umesh 11, B. Aparajith (batting) 35; Extras (lb-1, w-4, nb-9): 14; Total (for two wkts. in 63 overs): 137.
Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-73.
Central Zone bowling: Umesh Yadav 12-2-36-1, Shrikant Wagh 8-3-21-0, Imtiaz Ahmed 11-3-21-0, Piyush Chawla 16-3-40-1, Jalaj Saxena 16-6-18-0.