INDORE: The West Zone batsmen were put through the `Anil Kumble test' on a decisive second day's play in the Duleep Trophy. They trekked back to the dressing room, bewildered and beaten by the leg-spinner's variation and accuracy.
The contest went on expected lines, the batsmen unable to decide between blocking or blasting away at the South Zone spearhead and perishing either way to concede a 111-run first innings lead.
Kumble's five-wicket haul restricted West to 180 in the first innings (the injured Sairaj Bahutule did not bat), well short of the 291 made by South, which can now aim for an outright win.
In its second innings, V.V.S. Laxman and the dependable Venugopala Rao were at the crease, as South finished the day at 65 for two.
The Usha Raje stadium wicket is lively for the likes of Zaheer Khan, but not a batsman's nightmare yet.
West's awe of Kumble (18-2-42-5) was understandable. Sreesanth did not command respect initially, but bowled a hostile spell post-lunch to return with figures of 18-3-65-3.
He became a talking point in the stands on the long walk to the run-up, chatting with himself, then coming within sniffing distance of the batsman in his follow through.
The India bowler also instilled doubts in the batsmen's minds by getting good bounce and movement after changing ends.
Sreesanth breached Rohit Sharma's defence to cut short a promising innings (41, 87b), had opener Dheeraj Jadhav (36, 110b) edging to Laxman at second slip, and Amol Muzumdar shouldering arms and getting trapped in front.
West's resistance was broken after the 70-run second-wicket stand between Jadhav and Rohit as Kumble moved in for the kill with leg-before verdicts against an aggressive Parthiv Patel and a defensive Jacob Martin.
Ravinder Jadeja enhanced his batting reputation with some power-packed hitting against spinner Pragyan Ojha. He made 53 off just 49 balls (six fours, two sixes) before becoming another Kumble victim.
Zaheer rocked South in its second knock, first nailing opener Robin Uthappa and then bowling some superb outswingers and in-cutters.
The speedster is indeed hungry for more action and wickets.
South Zone 1st innings: D. Karthik b Zaheer 2, R. Uthappa st. Parthiv b Pawar 57, V.V.S. Laxman (run out) 15, Venugopala Rao c Rohit b Bahutule 69, S. Badrinath c Pujara b Trivedi 42, A. Rayudu c Parthiv b Zaheer 26, Arjun Yadav c Parthiv b Pawar 22, A. Kumble c Parthiv b Zaheer 6, L. Balaji b Bahutule 11, Sreesanth c Muzumdar b Zaheer 11, Pragyan Ojha (not out) 7; Extras (b-4, lb-5, nb-13, w-1): 23; Total (in 93.5 overs) 291.
Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-59, 3-96, 4-183, 5-228, 6-232, 7-238, 8-273, 9-273.
West bowling: Zaheer 21.5-7-44-4, Trivedi 16-3-51-1, Pawar 30-4-95-2, Bahutule 19.4-3-73-2, R. Jadeja 4.2-0-19-0, Rohit 2-2-0-0.
West Zone 1st innings: C. Pujara b Balaji 0, D. Jadhav c Laxman b Sreesanth 36, Rohit b Sreesanth 41, J. Martin lbw b Kumble 18, A. Muzumdar lbw b Sreesanth 0, Parthiv lbw b Kumble 9, R. Jadeja c Rayudu b Kumble 53, R. Pawar c Uthappa b Kumble 6, Zaheer (not out) 12; S. Trivedi lbw b Kumble 0, S. Bahutule (did not bat); Extras (lb-2, nb-2, w-1): 5; Total (in 56 overs) 180.
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-70, 3-79, 4-79, 5-100, 6-112, 7-158, 8-173, 9-180.
South bowling: Balaji 7-3-8-1, Sreesanth 18-3-65-3, Kumble 18-2-42-5, Ojha 11-1-56-0, Venugopala Rao 2-0-7-0.
South 2nd innings: D. Karthik b Trivedi 17, R. Uthappa c Parthiv b Zaheer 0, Venugopala Rao (batting) 26, V.V.S. Laxman (batting) 12; Extras (lb-1, nb-4, penalty runs 5) 10; Total (for two wkts. in 26 overs) 65.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-45.
West bowling: Zaheer 9-3-18-1, Trivedi 8-2-21-1, Pawar 5-0-10-0, Jadeja 4-1-10-0.