Central Zone batsmen led by Robin Bist were guilty of poor shot selection as they finished at 237 for seven against South Zone on day one of their Duleep Trophy final in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Bist wasted a chance of scoring a ton as he got out for 79 off 153 balls in an innings that lasted three and half hours and had 12 sweetly timed boundaries with a six. For South, Baba Aparajith with 2/26 had best figures while R Vinay Kumar, HS Sharath, Shreyash Gopal, Pragyan Ojha and Hanuma Vihari all got a wicket apiece.
Central got partnerships of 68, 65, 52 but most of their batsmen got out after getting set. They got a couple of bad decisions with both Anil Chaudhary and K Srinath getting it wrong on one occasion each.
Despite a liberal coating of green, the Kotla wicket displayed its typical slow nature with the batsman having little difficulty in negotiating the pace trio of R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and HS Sharath.
Such was the slow nature of the pitch that Vinay deployed seven bowlers including four spinners in the first session itself.
While last match’s centurion Jalaj Saxena (2) was given dubiously caught behind off Vinay’s bowling, Bist in company of Vidarbha opener Faiz Fazal (49) negotiated the South bowlers with ease.
With no real demons in the pitch, batting became easy as the effort balls like bouncers from medium pacers were imperiously pulled.
Bist, in particular, was at his delightful best against the spinners as he used his feet well.
The diminutive right-hander lofted Pragyan Ojha for a lovely six over extra cover. While he found the gaps with ease against spinners, he rocked back to pull a Sharath short ball in-front of square. The shot off the day was a late cut by Bist off leg-spinner Shreyash Gopal.
Fazal-Bist duo added 65 runs for the second wicket before Baba Aparajith struck twin blows in the post-lunch session.
Southpaw Fazal, after doing all the hardwork, threw it away trying to cut Aparajith and offering a simple catch to Hanuma Vihari at point.
All eyes were on Naman (4) and he started off with a boundary before a moment of indiscretion cost him dearly.
Aparajith bowled a flattish delivery and Ojha just smacked it straight to Vinay at mid-off.
With Central in a spot at 94 for three, Ashok Menaria (37) joined Bist and two Rajasthan boys carried repair work adding 68 runs for the fourth wicket.
None of the South Zone bowlers could create an impact. Bist reached his 50 in due course and looked like going for a long haul infront of national selectors Vikram Rathour and Saba Karim.
At 162, South profited from Dinesh Karthik’s smart stumping off Hanuma Vihari’s bowling. Disaster struck when Mahesh Rawat (0) was adjudged caught behind off Gopal’s bowling at the stroke of tea, when it looked that he had not edged it.
Bist, who was destined to get hundred, blew it away when Ojha bowled a delivery that dipped and also stopped with the batsman committing on backfoot. He couldn’t check his shot and the ball looped to Abhimanyu Mithun at mid-wicket, leaving Central tottering at 185 for six.
Arindam Ghosh (32 batting) and Piyush Chawla (30) however stemmed the rot with their 52 run useful stand before Central skipper got out of the last delivery of the day.
Brief Scores: Central Zone 1st Innings 237/7 (Robin Bist 79, Faiz Fazal 49, Arindam Ghosh 32 batting, Baba Aparajith 2/26).