Prithvi Shaw’s (104 batting, 96b, 11x4, 3x6) blistering hundred and Jaydev Unadkat’s (three for 24) inspired second spell put West Zone in command against Central Zone on the second day of the first Duleep Trophy semifinal, at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore, on Friday.
Riding on a questionable not out decision for caught behind off Aniket Choudhary in the second over of the innings, Shaw went into overdrive in the final session. His flourishing wrists and imperious backfoot play fetched him five fours inside the first four overs after the break.
The flicks were turned away off the pads for fours at square-leg and midwicket while the cuts pierced the gaps in front of and behind square.
He raced to a 32-ball fifty, which included eight fours, before exercising caution against spin.
Kumar Kartikeya, who had breathed fire with a fifer on Thursday, was doused by Shaw’s nonchalance.
Stepping out to the left-arm spinner, after three overs of abstinence against spin, Shaw launched a four at long-off before sweeping Kartikeya for two sixes.
The 22-year-old brought up his hundred off 88 balls with a pull over deep-midwicket off Gaurav Yadav.
Shaw’s assuredness outside off belied the struggles of the West Zone batters. Yashasvi Jaiswal could add only three runs to his first innings duck as he was trapped leg-before-wicket off a Choudhary delivery that seamed in.
Captain Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed leaving the ball outside off for the second time in the match, this time losing his off-stump. Rahul Tripathi, less than two overs later, perished in a similar fashion, the in-coming delivery rapping him on the pads through his lifted arms.
Shaw and Armaan Jaffer prevented further damage with a 44-run partnership as West Zone ended the day on 130 for three, leading Central Zone by 259 runs in the second innings.
After being shot out for 257 in the first innings, adding only five runs to its overnight score, West Zone enjoyed a healthy first innings lead of 129 runs mainly due to Unadkat’s three for 24, who got Yash Dubey leg-before-wicket in the third over, nipping the ball in from over the wicket.
He then came around the wicket in his second spell and moved the ball away from left-hander Himanshu Mantri and right-hander Priyam Garg, who outside-edged to Shaw in the slips.
“The second spell, when I came after I had bowled four overs from the other end, I was well-versed about what was happening in the wicket. I knew what I had to do against these batters. When you are bowling in the south, where there is lot of humidity, even three to four overs of rest helps,” Unadkat said.
“It’s a sporting wicket. There is value for runs. The batsmen need to be fearless enough to take that risk. It’s not a wicket where you can grind your time out, tire out the bowlers and then score runs,” he added when asked about the pitch, which has seen 23 wickets fall in two days as well as witnessed Shaw’s fearless hitting in both innings.
Central Zone had lost half its side for 66 after Rinku Singh, caught in the slips, was outdone with a short delivery from Chintan Gaja.
Venkatesh Iyer, who stepped out to Gaja and cleared deep extra-cover for a six off the second delivery he faced, fell to the ground in agony next ball.
He was hit behind the neck after defending the ball back to Gaja, who, in the heat of the moment, threw it back on the follow-through. An ambulance was rushed onto the field but Iyer preferred to walk away retired hurt.
He returned with seven wickets down for 94, struck a couple of fours before Tanush Kotian (three for 17) bowled Central Zone out for 128 and curtailed captain Karan Sharma’s (34, 64b, 2x4, 2x6) brief flirtation with big-hitting.