South make brave progress in impossible chase
South Zone 199 and 232 for 3 (Uthappa 94, Vijay 63) need another 446 runs to beat West Zone 459 and 417 for 8 dec (Parthiv 131, Rahane 98, Pawar 50*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
For a couple of hours while Robin Uthappa and M Vijay were hitting West Zone's bowlers all over the MA Chidambaram Stadium, South Zone fans would have dreamt of the possibility of an outrageous chase. However, a session's belligerence could not undo three days of being dominated and the enormity of South's task resurfaced as soon as the openers and Rahul Dravid were dismissed in quick succession. They have to bat a day with seven wickets in hand to save the match, having all but lost the Duleep Trophy to West after conceding a first-innings lead.
West strengthened their vice-like grip on the match during the first session of the fourth day. Resuming on 232 for 4 with a lead of 492, they batted on and on, scoring 172 runs before lunch. Despite the conditions favouring spin, none of the South Zone spinners - specialist or part-time - could prevent West from achieving their objective of amassing an unbeatable lead. On a cracked surface with healthy bounce, the slow bowlers needed to focus on hitting particular spots and maintain a consistent line. They failed.
Sreesanth battled hard to separate the overnight pair - Abhishek Nayar and Kedar Jadhav - but the lack of support from the other end allowed the batsmen to settle into a rhythm. South finally got their first breakthrough when an innocuous offbreak from R Ashwin, pitched on a length, spat dangerously off the pitch and nearly hit Jadhav on his face. He could only glove an easy catch to Rahul Dravid in the slips.
However, West captain Wasim Jaffer was not about to declare for Parthiv Patel was ready to resume his innings on 64, after retiring due to cramps yesterday. Parthiv found his groove easily, placing the ball into gaps and putting away full tosses. He reached his century with a tap behind square off Badrinath for another four and later he charged against Vijay to hit a superb straight six.
After Nayar had gone, failing to clear Badrinath at midwicket, Parthiv and Rajesh Pawar scored aggressively and the partnership was nearing 100 before Parthiv faltered by trying to hit against Ashwin's turn and holed out to Robin Uthappa at mid-on. Jaffer declared an over after lunch, after Rajesh Pawar had reach his half-century, setting South a target of 678 in five sessions.
South began their chase briskly, with Uthappa and Vijay racing to 93 for 0 in quick time by tea. Uthappa began with a fluent push to the straight boundary off Dhawal Kulkarni in the first over and repeated the shot in his next. Vijay also started positively, by standing his ground to dispatch a short outside off delivery from Siddharth Trivedi to the cover boundary.
After five overs from his fast bowlers, Jaffer decided to introduce the left-arm spin of Rajesh Pawar. He nearly broke through immediately, when Uthappa tried to cut a ball that was spinning away but Jaffer failed to catch the ball as it flew over his head at first slip. With spinners bowling from both ends, the batsmen grew cautious but scored whenever an opportunity presented itself. Powar tried to draw the batsman out with his flight, but when he faltered he was made to pay. Uthappa had already pulled him for a boundary and now started to impose himself on the offspinner. He swept Powar past the square-leg boundary and then charged to hit a powerful six over long-on. He reached his half-century by stepping out again to hit Powar along the ground to the straight boundary.
South's opening partnership reached 165 before Vijay edged Powar to Patel. An over later, Powar induced another edge to get rid of Uthappa, who had made 94 off 98 balls, before bowling Rahul Dravid for a duck with one that kept low. South had lost three wickets for two runs but the slide was arrested by S Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik who added 65 for the fourth wicket. Their job has barely begun if they are to save the match.