West Zone 102 for 2 (Thaker 42*, Pujara 34*, Bose 2-17 ) trail East Zone 171 (Parida 63, Pawar 6-34) by 69 runs
It took only an hour in the second session of play for Rajesh Pawar to trigger East Zone's collapse and pick up a career-best 6 for 34 on the first day in Mumbai. Though East fought back with the wickets of captain Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane, West Zone will be confident of building their advantage given their formidable batting line-up.
Pawar's efforts are more creditable given that the conditions were mostly overcast and the smattering of grass on the pitch made it more conducive for the fast men. He had bowled only two overs of spin before lunch but, an hour into the second session, Jaffer decided to get him back on. It worked wonders.
Four wickets fell in twenty balls as Pawar grabbed two wickets each in the first and fourth overs. Saurabh Tiwary was unlucky after his hard flick was intercepted brilliantly by an agile Kedar Jadhav at short leg. Wriddhiman Saha's prod off the next ball took an edge on its way to Jaffer at first slip. On a hat-trick, Pawar tempted new man Haladhar Das with a flighted delivery and was nearly successful. Das' back foot was in the air for a moment as he stretched to defend but he got it back just before Parthiv Patel brushed aside the bails.
A few overs later Pawar struck Rashmi Ranjan Parida in line as the batsman attempted a sweep against a straight one, and he then wrapped up the tail easily with Anand Katti and Ranadeb Bose failing to read the turn and Ashok Dinda going for the slog.
The performance vindicated Jaffer's decision to field. There was almost instant success when Dhawal Kulkarni, who made a spectacular Ranji Trophy debut two months ago with a nine-wicket haul, caught East captain Shiv Sundar Das plumb in front after he failed to read the half-volley and played across. The other opener, Dibyendu Chakrabarty, failed to take advantage of an early life and offered a thick outside edge to a superb outswinger by Siddarth Trivedi.
The responsibility to strengthen the innings fell on Manoj Tiwary but he disappointed. As soon as Abhishek Nayar was introduced, Tiwary charged him unconvincingly, holing out to Trivedi at mid-on. Lunch was still more than half an hour away and East had already lost their mainstays in Das and Tiwary. But plucky resistance from Parida and Saurabh helped East avoid further damage before the break.
From then on, barring Parida's half-century, it was the Pawar show.
After East had folded for 171, Bose bowled a menacing spell to attack the off stump consistently and reaped rich dividends by first forcing Jaffer to edge and Rahane to pull at a deliberate short-pitched delivery. But any further hopes of East bouncing back were put paid to by the pair of Bhavish Thaker and Pujara, who played strokefully and helped West regain the momentum.
With his efforts today Pawar vindicated the decision of the team management, who left out Ramesh Powar for an extra batsman. Pawar, a gritty left-arm spinner, was included in the Indian Test squad for the Bangladesh tour in 2007 but didn't played a game.
It was on that trip, though, that he picked up a few tips from Anil Kumble and Powar on bowling with the Kookaburra ball, which is being used in the Duleep Trophy. The message from the duo was to flight the ball, which has a less prominent seam than the SG ball.
Originally from Mumbai, Pawar moved to Baroda a few years ago after being kept low in the pecking order, behind seniors like Nilesh Kulkarni, Sairaj Bahutule and Powar. Though rusty in his first two years Pawar bounced back and was the second-best left-arm spinner behind Sunil Joshi this Ranji season.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo