Kumar Kartikeya’s five-wicket haul (five for 66) on Duleep Trophy debut reduced West Zone to 252 for nine on the first day of the first semifinal against Central Zone at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore on Thursday.
It took a 74-run defiant rearguard from Shams Mulani (41, 77b, 5x4) and Tanush Kotian (36, 77b, 6x4) for the seventh wicket for West Zone to breach the 200-run mark. The duo, with positive front-foot play and nimble footwork, countered the spin threat of Kartikeya and Karan Sharma after West was left reeling at 152 for six in the second session.
However, Kartikeya struck back in the final session, uprooting Kotian’s off-stump before castling Jaydev Unadkat to complete his fifer. Mulani, severe against pace, was undone by Rajpoot’s bouncer, which took the batter’s edge before going to the slip fielder.
Rahul Tripathi (64 batting, 137b, 5x4 1x6), who had retired hurt on 47 earlier, ensured Central Zone would have to field again on Friday with an unbeaten 22-run stand for the last wicket with Chintan Gaja.
Earlier, after being inserted, West Zone learnt the hard way against the hard lengths. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ajinkya Rahane, double-centurions in the quarterfinal against Northeast Zone, failed to register double-digit scores. Jaiswal edged a good-length delivery in the channel to the slip cordon for a six-ball duck before Rahane, who had shown good judgement in leaving outside off-stump until then, shouldered arms to one that seamed in and was trapped leg-before-wicket for eight.
Prithvi Shaw (60, 78b, 10x4) was wearing the Indian Test jersey during warmups and, keen to prove a point, stood tall above the rest against a disciplined new-ball salvo of Ankit Rajpoot and Aniket Choudhary. Shaw struck three fours off Rajpoot in the third over, cutting and punching off the backfoot when the length and width were there on offer.
However, the pacers’ consistency meant that they rarely strayed on the pads and it took until the 12th over for the first leg-side boundary to come. Shaw flicked one to the fine-leg fence before unleashing a cracking pull in the same over off Choudhary.
Tripathi, who took 15 balls to get off the mark, helped in the rebuild by taking on the spinners, who came into the attack after 18 overs on a dry surface. He struck Kartikeya for a four and a six in one over after starting his boundary count with a one-handed paddle sweep to fine-leg off the left-arm spinner’s previous over.
Shaw, driving on the up, was dropped on 37 by Rinku Singh at cover. He took his chances against spin but wasn’t lucky on this occasion. He got a top-edge while sweeping off Kartikeya before a short one skidded through his pull shot and crashed into the stumps later in the over.
That wicket was a sign of things to come. After Lunch, captain Karan and Kartikeya operated from both ends, picking three wickets in the 17 overs they bowled together.
The front-foot press of Tripathi against spin in the first session was replaced by poor shot-making by the rest in the second. Armaan Jaffer pulled a loose short delivery on leg-stump straight to backward square-leg and Het Patel was trapped in front, stuck inside his crease. Atit Sheth edged to the wicketkeeper trying to sweep from wide outside off when West Zone was staring down the barrel.