South Zone, riding on some solid middle-order batting, took a slender first-innings lead over East Zone in their Duleep Trophy encounter at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, on Thursday.

Skipper MSK Prasad, who was unbeaten on 93 at the end of the second day, dule completed his century, but he lost Vijay Bharadwaj 13.4 overs into the day's play. Bharadwaj fell to Laxmi Rattan Shukla after making 48 off 98 balls, striking 10 fours in his knock.

Prasad's was the fourth wicket to fall, within just three overs of Bharadwaj's departure, and South appeared to be tottering when Kiran Powar was dismissed with the score on 311. But Sridharan Sharath scored 49 off 102 balls, hitting seven fours and seeing his team out of that minor crisis.

Sharath and Hemal Watekar fell within seven balls of each other, and East sniffed a chance of taking the first-innings lead at 358 for seven. The next wicket, however, fell with South exactly on 398, East's first-innings score. Dodda Ganesh (24) and MR Shrinivas (30) added valuable runs in the tail, and the latter fell as the last wicket, with South making 419.

East Zone, batting for only seven overs on the evening of the third day, reached 25 for one at stumps. Parag Das was the sole casualty, falling to Ganesh for a duck. Rashmi Ranjan Parida (13*) and Sourashish Lahiri (11*) were at the crease at the close of play.