Last-wicket duo put North in control
North Zone 497 for 9 (Yuvraj 110, Sehwag 79, Balaji 5-121) lead South Zone 338 by 159 runs
Yuvraj Singh celebrated his recall to the Indian Test side with an accomplished 110, and Virender reeled off a coruscating 57-ball 79, but both men were eclipsed by the big hitting of Amit Bhandari as North Zone seized the initiative in their Duleep Trophy encounter against the South. By stumps, North had rattled along to 497 for 9, maintaining a run-rate of close to six an over. More remarkably, the final-wicket pairing of Bhandari and Amit Mishra had added 131 at well over a run a ball to thwart South Zone, who had Laxmipathy Balaji to thank for a spirited fightback.
It took North only 17 deliveries in the morning to wrap up South Zone's innings, and when they came out to bat, Sehwag blasted away with the insouciance that has driven some of the world's finest bowlers to despair. With Gautam Gambhir electing to play the anchor role, Sehwag leathered 14 fours in an hour of utter mayhem before tonking Sunil Joshi to Robin Uthappa. By then, 118 runs were on the board, at eight an over.
Gambhir contributed a fluent 52, and with Dinesh Mongia rattling off a quick 47, it was left to Yuvraj to really put the boot in. Sunil Joshi picked up three wickets, but was treated disdainfully at all, while MR Shrinivas went for a whopping 95 runs in his first 13 overs.
Yuvraj eased his way to a classy century, smashing 18 fours and a six as North zoomed past their opponents' score with only five wickets down. But then, Balaji - who had got some tap in his opening spell - tilted the scales with four wickers in two overs, bowling Maninder Bisla and Harbhajan Singh, before ending Yuvraj's piece de resistance with an edge behind the stumps. And when Ashish Mehra then went leg before, the lead was only 28.
But South's hopes of ending the day on even keel were dashed by Bhandari and Mishra, who threw their bats around with a vigour and purpose that befuddled VVS Laxman and his team. Bhandari thwacked four fours and four sixes in his 41-ball 64 and Mishra chipped in with a determined 60 as North once again established their dominance of a game that had appeared tantalisingly poised after Balaji's burst.