South Zone 298 for 3 (Badrinath 97*, Pandey 74) trail North Zone 337 (Dogra 167, Ojha 3-49) by 39 runs with seven wickets remaining
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
He may only have played two Test matches, and his age may be considered a disadvantage as India looks to groom young players for the future, but it hasn't stopped S Badrinath from being a run-machine in domestic cricket. He was as it again in the Duleep Trophy final, scoring 97 not out on the second day to ensure his side South Zone are odds-on favourites to take the first-innings lead.
South are just 39 runs behind North Zone's 337, and with Badrinath still at the wicket and plenty of batting to come, they will be aiming to take a commanding lead.
Badrinath was watchful against North's seamers, and hit just one boundary in the first 49 deliveries he faced. Once the spinners came on, he cut loose, smashing North captain Amit Mishra for a four and a six down the ground in the 39th over, before hitting him for two boundaries on the leg side. After a steady period, Badrinath accelerated again towards the end of the day, playing two glorious drives to the off-side fence off seamer Yashpal Singh.
That left him on 90 with four overs still left in the day. A less experienced batsman may have gotten anxious and attempted a rash stroke, but Badrinath is no stranger to being near a first-class century - he has 26 - and he was patient enough to play out the last few overs.
South's healthy run-rate of 4.25 was aided by aggressive half-centuries by Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey. Uthappa had a strike-rate of 104.76 in his 66, and laid into North's seamers early. Ishant Sharma, the India seamer's, sixth over went for 14 runs as Uthappa hit him straight back over his head for four and then pulled him for six over square leg. Ishant ended up conceding 61 runs in his 13 overs on the day.
Uthappa reached his half-century of 54 balls and celebrated it by hitting three consecutive boundaries off Sumit Narwal. His dismissal, though, was disappointing, as he top-edged an attempted pull off Joginder Sharma to mid off. Uthappa had been involved in an 85-run opening stand with Abhinav Mukund, who was out for 34 to Narwal.
Pandey was also guilty of throwing his wicket away after a stroke-filled innings. He was severe on the spinners, striking Mishra for two sixes and hitting part-time spinner Mithun Manhas out of the attack with consecutive sixes over midwicket in his second over, and a four and a six in his next. Pandey attempted one shot too many, and lofted Narwal straight to Ishant at mid-off, when he was on 74.
South were 243 for 3 at that stage, and North were denied any chance of a fightback by Badrinath, who remained solid till the end of the day. Badrinath was the top-scorer in the Ranji season in which he scored 922 runs at an average of 131.71, and appears to have carried that form over to the Duleep Trophy.
North would have been satisfied with their batting performance in the first session, as they added 71 to their overnight score of 266 for 7. Joginder started by hitting R Vinay Kumar for consecutive boundaries off the first two balls of the day. Badrinath made what proved to be a successful decision to bring left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha into the attack in the eighth over of the morning. Ojha baffled Joginder with one that pitched on middle, went past the edge and hit the top of off.
Overnight centurion Paras Dogra responded by taking three boundaries off the next over from Vinay Kumar, but then hit Ojha straight to mid-on to fall for 167. Narwal, who proved with his two half-centuries in the semi-final that he can be useful with the bat, hit seamer Sreenath Aravind for two fours and a six in one over, but eventually became Aravind's third victim of the innings, losing his middle stump while attempting a slog.
North had ensured they went past the 300-run mark, but the response from South left their total looking quite a few short.