India Red 285 (Kalsi 106, Nair 99, Kishan 50, Pathania 4-55, Saxena 3-57) and 297 for 6 dec (Nair 166*, Kalsi 64, Saxena 4-105) drew with India Blue 255 (Bawne 121*, Anmolpreet 56, Avesh 4-58, Wakhare 3-32, Unadkat 3-52) Points: Red 3, Blue 1
A nearly two-year wait ended on Monday as Karun Nair scored a first-class century to lead India Red into the Duleep Trophy final. The Karnataka batsman had not been able to breach the three-figure mark after December 2017, but produced a second-innings 166 not out to follow a 99 in the first.
With three points in the bag, India Red will know that only one of the other teams - Blue and Green - have any chance of going past them in the race to be in the day-night final at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Himachal Pradesh's Ankit Kalsi, a 25-year-old batsman fighting to become a regular for his domestic side, assisted Nair in both innings. Having earned his place on the back of three Ranji Trophy centuries in five matches last season, the left-hander exhibited poise and composure to make scores of 106 and 64. Kalsi and Nair put on two century stands in the game to keep Blue at bay.
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Playing with a bowler short - Basil Thampi pulled up with a back injury after sending down 11 overs in the first innings - a bulk of the team's workload fell on Diwesh Pathania, the Services fast bowler, and the two spinners Jalaj Saxena and Saurabh Kumar.
During the course of the match, Saxena, who finished with a match haul of 7 for 162, went past the double of 6000 runs and 300 wickets in first-class cricket, an elite list that features the likes of Syed Abid Ali, Lala Amarnath, Sanjay Bangar, Sairaj Bahutule and S Venkataraghavan, to name a few.
The India A regulars had a forgettable game. Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, both of whom are in the frame to be the third opener for the Test team, managed 42 runs between them in four innings, while Shubman Gill was out for 9, playing across the line to a full inswinging delivery from Jaydev Unadkat, in his only innings.
Blue were in the running for a first-innings lead during the course of a 129-run stand between centurion Ankit Bawne and Anmolpreet Singh, but they lost 5 for 15 after that to concede the advantage. They will now have to wait for the final league game - between Red and Green - to see if there is a passage for them to the final.