Baba Indrajith’s (118, 125b, 14x4) breezy ton and R. Sai Kishore’s five for 86 ensured South Zone had its nose in front on the second day of the Duleep Trophy final at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore on Thursday.
When West Zone thought it had a foot in the door, with South Zone losing six for 243, Krishnappa Gowtham’s (43, 55b, 3x4, 3x6) lusty blows took his team to 318 for seven and stretched its first-innings lead to 48.
On a wicket which continued to assist both pacers and spinners, Indrajith’s well-paced hundred was a throwback to his three triple-digit scores during Ranji Trophy 2021-22 where he plundered 396 runs at a strike rate of 76.74.
His punching of the bat on reaching his 112-ball hundred came as an aberration in an innings compiled with restrained aggression. He pounced on the fuller lengths of both pacers and spinners, pulled with disdain and was busy with his feet, stealing runs behind square on the off-side with impeccable timing.
Indrajith found momentum from the get-go despite South Zone struggling at 40 for two. His fluent shot-making coupled with Hanuma Vihari’s stodgy knock had restored normalcy by lunch before the skipper became the third victim of the pacers’ attacking lengths.
Atit Sheth pitched it full and shaped the ball into Vihari to rap him on the pads after getting one to tail away late and square up Mayank Agarwal, who edged behind poking outside off.
Jaydev Unadkat, with his around the wicket angle, induced Rohan Kunnummal’s outside edge.
However, Indrajith and Manish Pandey (48, 69b, 4x4, 2x6) ensured it would be long before West Zone had something to cheer about. The duo took a shine to the spinners in a stand 105-run partnership off 127 balls to deflate West Zone in the second session.
Pandey, after a brief struggle with the in-swinging delivery, set the wheels in motion with two consecutive fours off Tanush Kotian – a biff down the ground and a cover-drive. Pandey wasn’t finished and when Kotian came around the wicket, he played against the turn and smacked the off-spinner for an inside-out six and four, over covers. Indrajith flexed his muscles too, slicing behind point and pulling Shams Mulani to the midwicket boundary for two successive fours.
By the end of the onslaught, Kotian and Mulani had conceded 109 runs in 19 overs between them.
However, Kotian had the last laugh when he came back over the wicket and castled Pandey with the traditional off-spinner.
In the first over after the tea break, Indrajith strayed from his methods to his peril. After driving two identical Unadkat half-volleys through covers for boundaries, Indrajith was caught playing away from the body and chipped an easy catch to the cover fielder with the length slightly shorter on this occasion.
Unadkat had his third with Ricky Bhui prodding outside off and edging in the slip cordon while Sheth curtailed Gowtham’s pugnacious knock as West Zone pacers accounted for six wickets.
Earlier in the day, Het Patel was denied a well-deserved hundred when he got a top-edge while pulling a Kishore delivery that bounced awkwardly. Kishore soon had his fifer with the wicket of Chintan Gaja while Unadkat, dropped on 45 by Agarwal, was left unbeaten on 47 with West Zone adding 20 runs to its overnight score.
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