The third day of the first Duleep Trophy semifinal between Central Zone and West Zone started with a thunderous peal before petering into a slow grind on Saturday. Prithvi Shaw (142, 140b, 15x4, 5x4) sent a shiver down the spine of those in the media box at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore with a six off Kumar Kartikeya (three for 105) that landed on the tinned roof with a deafening clang.
However, any morning blues that would have been cast away by that jolt returned in the form of afternoon slumber as Het Patel (67, 153b, 4x4, 1x6) struck grueling but valuable partnerships with the lower-order to guide West Zone to 371 in the second innings and set up an improbable 501 for Central Zone to win.
In reply, Central lost openers Himanshu Mantri and Yash Dubey inside the first 10 overs to end on 33 for two, needing 468 runs to win on the final day. Dubey edged to Shaw in the slips while Mantri lofted one down the ground as Chintan Gaja, backpedaling from mid-on, clung on.
Building on his overnight score of 104, Shaw followed up on that prescient six off Kartikeya in the second over of the day with three consecutive fours off Aniket Choudhary – a ramp to third man, a drive through extra-cover and an outside edge between the slips. In the following over, Armaan Jaffer (49), who was struggling to connect the pull, picked Ankit Rajpoot’s length early and cleared deep midwicket with a six to break the shackles.
Rajpoot then came around the wicket to Shaw with a short-ball ploy and a deep fine-leg fielder to cramp the right-hander for room. Shaw obliged briefly, dangerously miscuing three pull shots before swivelling and pulling to the fine-leg boundary. To add to Rajpoot’s misery, the delivery was declared a no-ball as three fielders were stationed on leg-side behind square, exceeding the permitted two.
It needed a stunner from Dubey off Karan Sharma at short-midwicket to end Shaw’s onslaught. Jaffer, dropped on 36, perished to a lose flick in the same area off the same bowler.
After Karan’s two early strikes, the spinners were in for a long day. Karan and Kartikeya bowled from both ends till Lunch without success as Het and Shams Mulani (29) stonewalled for 12 overs. Het got off the mark after 22 balls and quickly added two fours before the first break.
After Mulani was trapped in front by Kartikeya, Atit Sheth edged one to the slips, charging down the wicket to the left-arm spinner. Tanush Kotian struck a first-ball six over long-on and after hitting a couple of fours, left a Gaurav Yadav delivery, which flattened his off-stump.
Het, meanwhile, ran hard between the wickets and ensured West Zone didn’t need to field while the sun was still out on what seemed like the hottest of the three days so far.