West Zone, scoring 496, took a decisive first-innings lead of 204 runs over South Zone in the Duleep Trophy league match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. Batting for the second time, South Zone were 8 for one at close of play on the third day.

Resuming on their overnight score of 181/3, West Zone batsmen Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Kaushik Aphale piled on the runs. The two batsmen added 145 runs for the fourth wicket, but with the scores level on 292, Aphale (76) was bowled by Hemal Watekar. Aphale faced 136 balls and struck nine boundaries in 176 minutes at the crease.

Test discard Nayan Mongia started off by cracking a couple of boundaries, but he did not last any longer, caught by MR Shrinivas off the bowling of left-arm spinner Sridharan Sriram for just nine. Kanitkar was then unlucky to miss out on a double hundred, caught by Venkatesh Prasad off the off-spinner Watekar. The former India all-rounder made 192 runs off 295 balls, striking a huge six and 29 fours.

Ajit Bhoite (9) too fell to the guiles of Watekar, and West Zone looked like losing the initiative at 366/7. Ramesh Powar and Sairaj Bahutule, however, added 101 runs off 27.4 overs to add to the woes of the home side. Bahutule struck five fours and three sixes to make 68 runs off 107 balls. Powar made 54 off 95 balls, striking nine fours.

Another discard Venkatesh Prasad picked up the wickets of Powar and Ajit Agarkar (4) to finish with figures of 25-10-53-3. The young off-spinner Watekar was the most successful bowler, picking five wickets in a marathon spell of 48.3 overs.

South Zone had an inauspicious start to their second innings, losing the wicket of skipper MSK Prasad for a duck, cleaned up by Ajit Agarkar. With one full day's play remaining, West Zone look well on track for an outright victory on Friday.