The pace duo of Ashok Dinda and Basant Mohanty came up with a tremendous performance to put East Zone on the threshold of a place in the semi-finals of the Duleep Trophy.
By close of play on Friday, the third day of the quarter-final against Central Zone, at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack, East had established an overall lead of 61 runs, having taken a first innings lead of 37. At stumps, they were 24 for 1 in their second innings.
Bengal's Dinda (4/125 in 38.1 overs) and Orissa's Mohanty (4/81 in 42 overs) bowled 80.1 overs between themselves and made sure Central did not cross East's first innings score of 427.
Starting the day on 169 for 3, the two overnight batsmen, Mohammed Kaif (105, 304 minutes, 241 balls, 16x4) and Naman Ojha (53, 166 minutes, 108 balls, 2x4, 2x6), took the score to 181 for three before Ojha was caught by Alok Sahoo off Basant's bowling.
The India discard could only add three runs to his overnight score of 50.
Kaif completed his 15th first-class century but was bowled by Dinda. Madhya Pradesh captain Devendra Bundela (80, 314 minutes, 191 balls, 11x4), however, manfully battled on, taking his team past the visitor's score.
The find of the Ranji season, Ashok Menaria (16), didn't last long as he became Dinda's third victim, caught by substitute Tarjinder Singh. But Bundela found an able ally in Murali Kartik (43, 65 balls, 7x4). From 237 for six, the duo added 71 runs for the seventh wicket. While Bundela was patient in accumulating runs, Kartik was the aggressive one, hitting as many as seven boundaries.
However left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena trapped Kartik leg before with the score 308 for 7.
Bundela, in the company of Rudera Pratap Singh (21), added another 43 runs.
Just when it looked that the Bundela-RP duo would achieve the imposing target, the UP speedster was dismissed after the tea break, being castled by Basant.
Rajasthan medium pacer Pankaj Singh (20, 4x4) joined Bundela and hit a few lusty blows during their 39-run partnership for the ninth wicket. It was East skipper Tiwary who caught Pankaj to give Dinda's his fourth victim.
Frustrated and running out of partners, Bundela finally sneaked one off Basant to give Wriddhiman Saha his third catch of the match.
East Zone (1st innings):
Natraj Behera c Chopra b Pankaj Singh 12
S Goswami c Yadav b Kartik 37
I Jaggi c Kaif b Pankaj Singh 118
M Tiwary lbw Pankaj Singh 109
S Tiwary run out 19
W Saha run out 69
A Sahoo c Bundela b Yadav 18
N Behera c Ojha b Pankaj Singh 1
A Dinda c Kanitkar b Singh 14
I Saxena b Kartik 17
B Mohanty not out 1
Extras: (b 2, lb 3, w 2, nb 5) 12
Total: (all out, 114.3 overs) 427
Fall of wickets: 1-29, 2-78, 3-286, 4-291, 5-320, 6-351, 7-354, 8-382, 9-417, 10-427.
Bowling: R P Singh 26-3-93-1 (3nb, 1w), Pankaj Singh 34-4-126-4 (1nb), U Yadav 23-6-72-1 (1w), M Kartik 20.3-3-92-2 (1nb), D Bundela 9-3-18-0, A Menaria 1-0-16-0, H Kanitkar 1-0-5-0.
Central Zone (1st innings):
A Chopra c Saha b Dinda 3
M Mishra c Saha b Mohanty 0
H Kanitkar c Natraj Behera b Saxena 29
M Kaif b Dinda 105
N Ojha c Sahoo b Mohanty 53
D Bundela c Saha b Mohanty 80
A Menaria c sub (Tarjinder Singh) b Dinda 16
M Kartik lbw Saxena 43
R P Singh b Mohanty 21
Pankaj Singh c M Tiwary b Dinda 20
U Yadav not out 0
Extras: (b 4, lb 7, w 4, nb 5) 20
Total: (all out; 137.1 overs) 390
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-4 3-55, 4-181, 5-213, 6-237, 7-308, 8-351, 9-390, 10-390.
Bowling: A Dinda 38.1-7-125-4 (3nb, 1w), B Mohanty 42-11-81-4 (1nb, 1w), A Sahoo 29-3-87-0 (1nb, 2w), I Saxena 26-3-77-2, M Tiwary 2-0-9-0.
East Zone (2nd innings):
S Goswami b Singh 5
I Jaggi not out 12
N Behera not out 7
Total: (for 1 wicket; 9 overs) 24
To bat: M Tiwary, S Tiwary, Natraj Behera, W Saha, A Sahoo, A Dinda, B Mohanty, I Saxena.
Fall of wickets: 1-10
Bowling: R P Singh 5-2-9-1, Pankaj Singh 4-1-15-0.