Central Zone kept its head above water on day three of a see-sawing Duleep Trophy quarterfinal against East Zone at the Alur (I) Cricket Ground in Bengaluru on Friday.
After failing to build on the rearguard of its openers amidst three fiery spells from Ishan Porel, Central surrendered its second-innings at 239. It effectively set up a 300-run target for the opposition before Saurabh Kumar (four for 33) gnawed at the East top-order, leaving it rattled on 69 for six at stumps.
On a deck that retained its hardness, the East batters failed to apply themselves again. Captain Abhimanyu Easwaran, dismissed for a golden duck in the first-innings, fell on 11 as he misread the guile of Saurabh and ceded control over his stump. Saurabh continued his procession after Anustup Majumdar and Shahbaz Ahmed were left displeased with umpire Mohit Krishnadas’ decisions that had them adjudged leg-before and caught-behind respectively. Opener Shantanu Mishra’s stoic 82-ball 18 was soon ruined by Saurabh, who found a healthy edge to wicketkeeper Upendra Yadav. With minutes left to play, Central captain Shivam Mavi landed another blow by dismissing Kumar Kushagra for a pair in the match.
The morning session was split between Central’s openers and Porel, who bowled his heart out on a flat deck. While Himanshu Mantri and Vivek Singh lifted their overnight tally of 64 with the first pair of half-centuries in the match, Porel held one end tight, conceding just six runs in his first four-over spell. The Bengal seamer then uprooted Vivek’s leg-stump before Shahbaz Nadeem prized out Mantri on 68 before lunch.
Porel’s remarkable control bore fruition in another outstanding spell when he trapped Upendra Yadav and Saurabh off successive deliveries. Central’s middle-order meltdown - from 182 for four to 201 for eight - lent fleeting hopes to Easwaran’s men. However, a sensible hand from Saransh Jain (32 n.o., 60b, 2x4) doused hopes of a seamless cruise through the tail, eventually setting up a daunting chase for East.
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