South Zone 63 for 4 (Agarwal 37*, Tilak 12*, Rana 2-19) trail North Zone 198 (Prabhsimran 49, Ankit 33, Sindhu 27, Kaverappa 5-28) by 135 runs
As many as 14 wickets fell at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on an intense day where South Zone appeared to have taken the honours until they collapsed late in the day to even things up.
Then Baltej Singh removed B Sai Sudharsan and R Samarth in quick succession as North hit back. As stumps loomed, South captain Hanuma Vihari, not a night watcher, strode out to take strike but he lasted all of four deliveries and was out to Harshit Rana. The rut didn’t end there; Ricky Bhui was out next ball. South ended on 63 for 4.
Earlier, South’s decision to bowl seemed to pay off when North slipped to 18 for 3 inside the first hour. Prabhsimran and Ankit Kumar steadied the innings with a 79-run stand, the only period where they appeared to have had some control over proceedings. Ankit’s dismissal once again exposed a brittle lower middle order.
West Zone 216 for 8 (Sheth 74, Jadeja 39, Pujara 28, Mavi 4-43) vs Central Zone
Then West recovered as Sheth and Jadeja added 73 in under two hours to keep the scoreboard ticking. Sheth played some flowing drives in his knock of 129 deliveries in which he hit nine fours and a six.
Easy on the eye, his footwork against spin was mighty impressive. His manner of countering Saurabh Kumar, fresh off a career-best 8 for 64 in the quarter-final last week, was a mark of his confidence. He seldom played against the turn, got to the pitch and picked lengths early to showcase his full range of shots.
Jadeja was chancy, often sweeping against the turn but doing so effectively to throw the bowlers off gear for a brief while post tea. The partnership ended with offspinner Saransh Jain had him jabbing to silly mid-off.
Earlier in the morning, West’s decision to bat first under overcast skies was a brave one. Central’s pace duo of Shivam Mavi and Avesh Khan kept Prithvi Shaw and Priyank Panchal honest. Shaw, known to be a quick starter, reined himself in and didn’t hit a boundary until after the first hour. He looked solid for much of his stay at the crease before a fresh catch sent him back for 26.
Shaw punched Saurabh straight to silly point, where the ball got stuck in between Dhruv Jurel’s pads as he tried to take evasive action. He somehow managed to hold on to break a 43-run stand. Exactly an over later, Yash Thakur had Panchal out lbw to a delivery that nipped back in to hit him plumb in front.
Het Patel, picked as first- choice wicketkeeper over Harvik Desai, then came under scrutiny from Avesh Khan immediately after lunch. Two balls after being reprieved by a no-ball off which he drove loosely to the slips, he was bowled neck-and-crop playing down the wrong line. Avesh’s hard length and late inward movement had him play down the wrong line as he was bowled.
From there on, it was Sheth’s rescue that ensured West crossed 200. Central’s bowlers briefly lost their plans against him, which resulted in Sheth profiting off a few reverse sweeps late in the day before he was Mavi’s fourth victim.
Mavi and Thakur shouldered much of the fast bowling workload for Central mainly because Avesh spent much of the second and third session off the field as a precautionary measure following an on-field collision with Rinku Singh while attempting a catch.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo