On a windy day, where it threatened to rain almost constantly, Central Zone restricted the much-fancied West Zone to 216 for eight on the first day of the Duleep Trophy semifinal at the Alur (I) Cricket Ground in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Central skipper Shivam Mavi led from the front with a four-wicket haul as West’s vaunted top order crumbled after it won the toss.
The defending champion’s innings reached a point of respectability mostly thanks to a battling half-century by all-rounder Atit Sheth.
The Central side was at its restrictive best as it kept the run rate under three throughout the day, as it looks for a first win over West in the Duleep Trophy in 25 years.
West began the day sedately with its openers – skipper Priyank Panchal and Prithvi Shaw – mostly in control. But the duo found it hard to keep the scorecard moving, with the first boundary coming only in the seventh over of the day.
Shaw looked in good touch, as he hit a few crunching boundaries, before departing, thanks to an inspired piece of fielding by Dhruv Jurel.
The 23-year-old opener tried to take on left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar with a back-foot punch, which was trapped by Jurel with his pads at silly point before he gathered it with his hands. Panchal soon followed his opening partner, after he was trapped in front by first-change bowler Yash Thakur.
Mavi, after having been a tad too full with the new ball, bowled an inspired second spell and was rewarded with the prized wickets of Suryakumar Yadav and Sarfaraz Khan. First, he drew an outside edge from the former, which was gathered again by Jurel, this time at second slip with a diving catch.
The 24-year-old pacer then induced an inside edge from Sarfaraz, which would crash onto the stumps to dismiss the No. 5 batter for a 12-ball duck.
Avesh Khan then dismantled Het Patel’s stumps with a searing, in-swinging yorker to leave West reeling at 65 for five.
Avesh’s involvement in the day’s play though would soon end after he and Rinku Singh left the field injured, following a collision between the two while attempting to take a catch.
All this while, Cheteshwar Pujara had batted himself into the game, employing his immaculate defence to great effect. He engaged in a prolonged battle with Saurabh, often defending with his long stride forward and punishing the spinner with shots on the off-side when he dropped his length.
Pujara and Sheth looked steady in their 45-run partnership, before the Saurashtra batter – after having played out more than 100 deliveries without erring – uncharacteristically flashed at a short ball from Mavi to offer a simple catch to Amandeep Khare at first slip.
Baroda all-rounder Sheth then stitched up a 73-run stand with Dharmendrasinh Jadeja to drag West to safer waters. The duo looked comfortable out in the middle, with Sheth cracking some perfectly-timed boundaries on both sides of the pitch.
Jadeja played the perfect foil to Sheth and had a few attacking shots of his own to offer, including a sweetly-hit sweep shot of off-spinner Saransh Jain for a huge six.
Jain though, would have the last laugh, after he had Jadeja caught bat-pad at short leg.
Mavi would return to strike another vital blow with a late final spell. He swung the second new ball away from Sheth just enough to get a nick to the slip cordon, where Jurel took another excellent catch.
Chintan Gaja and Arzan Nagwaswalla saw out the rest of the day for West, with rain clouds circling back once again over the ground.
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