India Blue v India Red, Duleep Trophy 2016-17, final, 3rd day September 12, 2016

Jadeja's five-for takes India Blue a step closer to Duleep title

India Blue 1 for 0 and 693 for 6 dec (Pujara 256*, Jackson 134, Gambhir 94) lead India Red 356 (Binny 98, Mishra 65, Jadeja 5-95) by 338 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

File photo - Ravindra Jadeja wheeled away for 34 overs, extracting sharp turn and bounce on a tiring Greater Noida surface © AFP

Ravindra Jadeja's five-wicket haul led a persistently probing bowling effort from India Blue on a day when they were made to work harder than they would have expected to plough their way through India Red's batting line-up. That was partly down to the pitch - which offered sluggish turn, rather than the spitting variety - and partly down to sparkling fifties from Gurkeerat Singh, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra and Kuldeep Yadav. India Red's spirited lower-order resistance frustrated India Blue and delighted a sizeable Monday crowd, but had little impact on the broader outcome of the match as they subsided to 356, conceding a first-innings lead of 337.

Jadeja consistently attacked the stumps and turned the ball past desperately groping bats. His speed through the air - averaging over 90kph - was considerably faster than that of any other spinner, denying the batsmen time to adjust to the turn. Bowling 34 overs in the day, he made good use of a sticky surface and dented India Red's fightback with the key wickets of Gurkeerat and Binny.

India Blue could have removed the lower order more swiftly if Jadeja's fellow spinners, Parvez Rasool and Karn Sharma had been more effective. Legspinner Karn was inconsistent with his line and length, alternating patches of incisiveness with periods that were less convincing. Offspinner Rasool had a good start to the day, troubling Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh with offbreaks and straighter ones. Against the right-handers who followed, however, he was not as threatening as he might have liked.

The most impressive spinners after Jadeja were the ones wielding bats. Mishra came in at 194 for 6, and was immediately kept company by nine close-in fielders. He, however, responded by lofting Jadeja back over his head for four. Mishra combined with Kuldeep for an 86-run partnership for the eighth wicket that temporarily brought the third session to life and restored some respectability to India Red's innings.

The reason respectability needed restoring was the limp showing of the India Red top order. Dhawan and Yuvraj managed some lovely drives in the first session, but those were far outnumbered by tentative pokes and speculative swishes. While they struggled most against Rasool, they ultimately perished to over-ambitious strokes against Abhimanyu Mithun and Jadeja.

Dhawan, in particular, might rue his untimely indiscretion. His patchy 29 in his penultimate - possibly his last - innings before India's first Test against New Zealand from September 22, puts him in a tight spot as India's selectors mull which of three possible openers - M Vijay and KL Rahul are the others - to select in the playing XI.

Jadeja, meanwhile, worked his way into fine rhythm in the second session, ending a 63-run stand for the fifth wicket between Gurkeerat and Binny when he dismissed Gurkeerat for 57 with a beauty that drifted into middle before turning away to hit off stump. Binny then put on 64 with Ankush Bains, before Jadeja ended that partnership too when he had Bains caught at second slip. The most decisive breakthrough, though, came minutes before the dinner break when Jadeja pitched one on leg stump and spun it away to hit Binny's back pad in front of middle. That ended a knock that had been gaining in momentum and poise, and left Binny an agonising two runs short of a century.

Mishra and Kuldeep counterattacked in the third session of the day, but Karn eventually dismissed both to end the innings. Riding on a huge lead, Gautam Gambhir and Mayank Agarwal played out the remaining two overs and headed to stumps with their side firmly in control.

Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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