Dravid and Karthik tons build South's lead
South Zone 329 and 345 for 6 (Dravid 118, Karthik 103*, Yadav 68) lead Central Zone 326 by 348 runs
The weather was ideal for cricket, a cloudless sky and a merciful sun, and South Zone made the most of it after receiving a boost on the second ball of the day: they were four runs away from conceding the first-innings lead when L Balaji produced a yorker that bowled Central Zone's last man Umesh Yadav. South nearly slipped again, after Pankaj Singh reduced them to 27 for 3, but centuries from Rahul Dravid and Dinesh Karthik virtually eliminated Central from the Duleep Trophy.
South were boosted first by a 154-run stand between Arjun Yadav and Dravid for the fourth wicket but the innings of the day came from Karthik , who became the sixth batsman to make twin centuries in a Duleep Trophy match. It was a nearly flawless effort, and he was more discerning in his shot-selection than he was in his helter-skelter 153 on the first day.
When Karthik started, it appeared as though he would continue to throw caution to the wind. He began with a couple of slog-swept fours against Murali Kartik's turn, and then played a reverse-sweep - a shot he didn't use even in the first innings - to the boundary.
The rest of his innings, however, was filled with less risky strokes, primarily drives along with an assortment of cuts and glides. He induced Piyush Chawla to bowl outside off by driving his leg-stump offerings to long-on, and inside out to long-off, for four, and then made use of the width to cut to the boundary. At ease against pace as well, Karthik tackled Umesh's quick bouncer by getting on his toes and guiding the ball to the third-man boundary.
Dravid gave Karthik company for much of his innings. Rock solid after a jittery start, Dravid was watchful against new-ball bowlers Pankaj and Bhuvneshwar initially, and was even caught at cover point off a no-ball when he was on 2. He only opened out when Pankaj was tiring towards the end of a nine-over spell, the last of which was taken for 14 runs - Dravid's back-foot cover drive being the stand-out shot.
With the pitch easing up and the ball getting older as the day progressed, runs began to flow. Dravid capitalised on plenty of short and wide deliveries and rarely needed to take risks to keep the score moving. The one time he played an extravagant shot was when Piyush Chawla tried to exploit the rough by bowling around the stumps - Dravid shimmied down the track and clobbered him over long-on for six to move to 99.
He was given good support by Arjun, who made a crucial 68. Arjun was rarely comfortable during his innings and he was frequently beaten, although there were some sumptuous boundaries, like the fierce square-cut to bring up his half-century.
Arjun survived an intense working-over from Pankaj early on. In one over, he hit a streaky four over the slip cordon, before he was dropped by substitute Faiz Fazal at gully, after which he got hit on the forearm by an incutter as he tried to shoulder arms.
That over was a part of Pankaj's hostile spell, during which he troubled several batsmen. He had S Badrinath fatally flirting with a delivery that pitched on off and straightened, and ensured Abhinav Mukund's horror match continued, knocking back off stump as the batsman played down the wrong line after a torturous 21-ball 1.
The other early South wicket was taken by Bhuvneshwar. Robin Uthappa had made a bright start, with four eye-catching boundaries in his 16, before he slapped a wide ball straight to backward point. The day belonged to South after those new-ball breakthroughs and what could so easily have been Central's match slipped out of their grasp.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo