Lower order resistance hands West the edge
East Zone 171 & 128 for 3 (S Tiwary 12*, M Tiwary 8*, Das 56, Parida 47, Kulkarni 2-36) lead West Zone 282 (Pawar 56, Bose 4-70) by 17 runs
A couple of top-order wickets late in the day gave West Zone the advantage at the halfway stage of their Duleep Trophy match against East. East finished with a slender lead of 17 with seven wickets in the bag, but with two new batsmen at the crease, West will retain strong hopes of taking charge in the first hour tomorrow, a period which proved vital for East earlier today.
After bundling out West for 282, East returned to bat in the second session before finishing on 128 for 3 with the two Tiwarys - Manoj and Saurabh - surviving some close calls before stumps. They had arrived in quick succession after two marginal umpiring decisions put them on the back foot following the 96-run second-wicket stand between Shiv Sundar Das and Rashmi Ranjan Parida.
Das and Parida fought hard after the early fall of Dibyendu Chakrabarty, who feathered an easy catch to an outgoing delivery from Dhawal Kulkarni. But some wayward bowling by the West bowlers, who bowled too many short deliveries, helped the pair settle down. Once Das had reached his half century, it seemed East were ready dictate terms.
Unfortunately, Das was a victim of a marginal decision from South African umpire Marias Erasmus: Das moved inside the line to play one to the leg side, missed and was hit on the pads by Rajesh Pawar, but the ball might have missed leg stump. Pawar could have picked up wickets off consecutive balls for the second time in the game when Manoj Tiwary prodded at one that turned, but Wasim Jaffer, at slip, dropped his second easy catch of the innings. Earlier, Parida had earned a reprieve on 32 when he tried to cut Pawar but Jaffar failed to pick a low catch to his right. But East's misery was compounded in the next over when Kulkarni hit Parida in line with the middle. The height, though, remained a question.
West owed their 111-run first-innings lead largely to an 88-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Abhishek Nayar and Kedar Jadhav, and a half-century from yesterday's hero Pawar. They enabled West to repair the damage they had sustained in the first half hour of the morning session where three wickets fell within the first five overs.
East's fast-bowling pair of Ashok Dinda and Ranadeb Bose were a constant threat, generating ample bounce and seam movement. Off the third ball of the morning, Cheteshwar Pujara was beaten by the bounce and movement and edged to Wriddhiman Saha, who took a fine catch diving to his right. Parthiv Patel nicked to Manoj Tiwary at second slip, and more trouble was in store for West when Dinda's athleticism got the better of Bhavik Thaker's slow response to a call from Abhishek Nayar for a tight single.
However, the pair of Nayar and Jadhav stopped East from wresting total control with their aggressive batting. Jadhav hit successive boundaries, as he pulled Dinda firmly and then hit a textbook cover drive to assuage the early morning shocks. Nayyar hit a couple of on-drives, both clips off Dinda, who tried to move the ball into the left-hander but often erred in line. Anand Katti, the left-arm spinner, wasn't spared either, as Jadhav pulled strongly and later swept the spinner to help West take the lead.
When Bose replaced Basanth Mohanty, Nayar hit him for four consecutive boundaries. He then charged Katti to hit the first six of the match. But instead of building on the momentum, Nayar threw it away the next ball, attempting a paddle sweep from off stump. The top edge lobbed up safely to leg slip.
There was more joy for East, as Jadhav was deceived by Bose's pace while he attempted a hook, and the leading edge was pouched by Saha. West's lead at that point was on 33, but Pawar held the tail together with some gritty batting and took advantage of the loose balls, cutting the short ones and hitting Katti over the sightscreen for a six. By the time he departed, West had managed to build a significant advantage.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo