Opener Rohan Kunnummal and captain Hanuma Vihari’s centuries led South Zone to a commanding start against North Zone in the semifinal at the SCF ground in Salem on Thursday.
South Zone vaulted to 324/2 in 90 overs with Kunnummal (143, 225b, 16x4, 2x6) and skipper Hanuma Vihari (107 batting) doing the heavy lifting on day one.
Earlier in the day, Vihari won the toss and opted to bat on a surface that had some grass on it. North Zone seamers Navdeep Saini and Siddharth Kaul, however, failed to make use of the Kookaburra ball upfront.
Kunnummal settled in quickly against the duo and made his intentions clear early on by driving Saini down the ground in the third over. Saini returned with a quick bouncer outside the off-stump in the fifth, but Kunnummal’s fast hands slashed the ball over the slip-cordon for six.
Meanwhile, Agarwal was off to a tentative start as Saini nearly induced an outside-edge off the first ball he faced. He opened his account with a cover drive for four off the 11th ball and quickly took over the mantle from Kunnummal. Agarwal found the fence four more times within the next 30 balls he faced and Kunnummal tagged along.
With Kaul and Saini employing fuller lengths, North Zone captain Mandeep Singh was forced to turn to spin as early as the ninth over. By the 20th, he had deployed all five of his main bowlers.
Kunnummal dominated the spinners, advancing on length and rocking back to cut every short ball. Agarwal then brought up their 100-run partnership with a six off Nishant Sindhu, but fell two balls later on 49 as the left-armer snuck through his defence with a fuller delivery.
Kunnummal, joined by Vihari, quickly lifted South Zone to 145/1 by Lunch. North Zone ran out of options in the second session as the two batters kept ticking away off the spin trio of Mayank Dagar, Sindhu and Pulkit Narang. The Kerala batter coasted to a 172-ball hundred with a massive six over long-on - his fourth First Class hundred in six innings since debut.
North Zone’s fleeting spell of joy came in Kunnummal’s dismissal after he chopped on off Saini post Tea. However, that could not halt South Zone’s momentum. Baba Indrajith joined Vihari and the pair adeptly used the quick outfield for ones and twos. Vihari nonchalantly brought up his century off 208 balls and carefully saw off an over from the second ball before stumps.