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Pujara, Surya fifties help West strengthen grip; South-North game hangs in balance

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Last updated on 06 Jul 2023 | 12:22 PM
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Pujara, Surya fifties help West strengthen grip; South-North game hangs in balance

West in the driver’s seat after Nagwaswalla fifer

When is it not overcast in Bengaluru? Well, it’s hard to honestly answer that because, let’s face it, it always is. On Thursday, when both West Zone and Central Zone arrived at the KSCA Oval of Alur, the chilly weather welcomed them with open arms, but little did Central know that the devastating impact would catch them dead in their tracks.

Before that, all it took was two and half overs for them to wrap up West Zone’s defiance, which ended at 220, with Shivam Mavi scalping the last two wickets to secure his third five-wicket haul in First-class cricket. 

Gujarat’s bowling duo of Arzan Nagwaswalla and Chintan Gaja didn’t provide any breathing space to the Central batters, right from the first over itself. While Vivek Singh was clueless against a nip backer from Nagwaswalla on the third ball of the innings itself, Gaja caught Madhya Pradesh opener Himanshu Mantri plumb in front. 

With virtually nothing on board, the onus was squarely on Dhruv Jurel and Amandeep Khare, who replaced Kunal Chandela and Shubham Sharma, respectively, in the playing XI, but with Nagwaswalla spitting fire under the cloudy skies, there was hardly anything Khare could do. But Jurel batted like a man possessed to gather quick runs. He was the only reason why Central Zone could keep the deficit below 100 runs.

Shaw and Panchal once again failed to do anything worthwhile. After lofting him for a couple of boundaries in Saurabh Kumar’s first over of the innings, Panchal found his rhythm, but Saurabh was too clever a spinner to be that predictable. He pulled the length back, and the ball straightened, which duly went on to hit the top of the off-stump.

Shaw had found his feet by taking Shivam Mavi for a couple of fours behind the square, but then he misread Yash Thakur’s line to see his stumps going for a walk. Suryakumar Yadav and Cheteshwar Pujara - whose methods stood on the opposite end of the spectrum - did well to hang in there. 

Staying true to his natural style, Surya attacked the bad balls, but after the half-century, he played an expansive drive against Saurabh Kumar, bringing his downfall. Pujara and Sarfaraz Khan ensured that West ended Day 2 with a score of 149/3, with an effective lead extending to 241 runs.


Mayank save South the blushes

The national selectors might have moved on from Mayank Agarwal as far as Test cricket is concerned, but the run-scoring appetite that has made him one of the tallest run-makers in Indian domestic cricket hasn’t gone anywhere. After topping the Ranji Trophy run-scoring chart in the previous season, Agarwal has again shown his impregnable nature by playing a crucial knock for South Zone at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. 

After North reduced South to 35/4 on first day itself, Agarwal joined forces with Tilak Varma as the duo rebuilt the innings in a stoic manner. The Karnataka opener took the attack on the opposition, whereas Varma was more resolute. The partnership of 110 runs provided a solid base for South, but one wicket brought another and South Zone were bundled out for 195, with a deficit of three runs to the first innings total of North Zone. 

With rain continuously disrupting the game at the Chinnaswamy, North were elated to have the lead on their side. But by losing Dhruv Shorey in the second over, North Zone put themselves in danger. Hopes were pinned on Ankit Kalsi and Prashant Chopra, but then Kaverappa removed Chopra to put North in further danger. When bad light stopped play in Bengaluru, North had a lead of 54 runs.

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