Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
"Take some rest in between, you have to bowl 75 overs on this pitch," India Green's Ishan Porel, sitting on a thick pile of covers outside the fine-leg boundary, shouted to Rahul Chahar.
Chahar had bowled only one over up until then, but Porel knew the pitch didn't have much in it for fast bowlers. Earlier, after bowling the first over of India Red's innings, Ankit Rajpoot could be heard telling himself, rather sarcastically, that it was going to be fun bowling on that surface.
While the second-day pitch during the Duleep Trophy game had hardly anything in it for fast bowlers, batsmen too seemed to be struggling to force the pace. The ball wasn't coming on, and the overnight rain had meant that even the good shots didn't fetch their full value because of a sluggish outfield.
On a slow day when nothing seemed to be moving, Karun Nair carried on with his good form and took another step forward on the road back to India's Test side. By the end of the day, his unbeaten 73 had taken India Red to 140 for 2.
In response to India Green's first-innings total of 440, India Red were 12 for no loss in the ninth over when a glute strain forced Abhimanyu Easwaran to retire hurt. In came Nair and it seemed everything had changed magically. The ball started coming on much better, the outfield appeared to have become quicker but only for Nair, who batted as if he was just resuming from his unbeaten 166 in the last game.
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Nair consistently found the boundary with his drives, punches and flicks against the seamers. Against spinners, he used his feet to either go to the pitch of the ball and loft down the ground, or go back and cut square of the wicket. Every shot appeared to come from the middle the bat; the timing was crisp. As a result, he raced to his fifty off just 58 balls with the help of nine fours.
For India Red, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja was the only bowler to make an impact. With little help from the pitch, the left-arm spinner varied his pace and length to reap rewards.
Priyank Panchal, who had laboured to 31 off 76 balls, went for a booming drive against Jadeja but the ball dipped on him to take the outside edge. Dhruv Shorey at first slip made no mistake.
Ankit Kalsi, who had scores of 106 and 64 in the last game, too found it difficult to get going. While trying to cut Jadeja, he ended up edging the ball on to the wicketkeeper's pads with Shorey keeping his calm to complete a juggling catch off the deflection.
But Jadeja too appeared helpless against Nair. The batsman collected 18 runs off the 25 balls he faced from Jadeja, including a lofted shot over mid-off for four. By the time bad light forced stumps, Nair had galloped to 77 off 106, with a second successive century in sight.
"He [Nair] likes to use his feet against spinners, so my focus was to vary my length and pace," Jadeja said after the day's play. "I prefer when batsmen go for the attack because it gives more opportunities to get them out."
But on Friday, whatever challenges Jadeja threw at Nair, he was up to it. Moreover, with chairman of selectors MSK Prasad in attendance, Nair had added motivation to do well.
In the morning, Jadeja's 37 with the bat and had his 51-run sixth-wicket stand with Akshay Wadkar had helped India Green cross 400. But once Jadeja was out, the incoming batsmen didn't last long and India Green lost their last five wickets for just 35 runs. Akshay Wakhare was the most successful bowler for India Red, finishing with figures of 5 for 103.
"The target was to score at least 550," Jadeja said. "When Wadker and I were batting, the thinking was to stretch as much as possible. But after I got out, two more wickets fell quickly and that pulled us back."
Jadeja will have a chance to make amends on Saturday, this time with the ball. With India Red still trailing by 300, if he can dismiss Nair and a couple of others early on, India Green might have a foot in the final by the end of the third day.