Captain Shikhar Dhawan scored a superb 101 to help North Zone reach 251 for three against West Zone on the opening day of the four-day Duleep Trophy quarter-final in Chennai on Saturday.
On all counts, the day belonged to a depleted North Zone, playing without the services of their India players, as opener Rahul Dewan, Sunny Singh and wicketkeeper-batsman Nitin Saini batted with utmost caution like Dhawan after winning the toss.
Openers Rahul (65) and Shikhar played to their potential and scored at over three runs an over at the MA Chindambaram stadium. The duo grew in confidence as the game wore on and put up a 100-run opening partnership without much ado.
But soon after reaching the 150-mark in the 52nd over, Shikhar stepped out to drive Kamlesh but missed the ball and was stumped by experienced keeper Parthiv Patel. His individual 101 off 179 balls, contained 15 hits to the fence and his stand with Rahul yielded 164 runs of 57.5 overs.
After some time, Rahul, who was looking tired due to heat and humid conditions, also made his exit offering a simple catch to Ajinkya Rahane off off-spinner Kamlesh Makwana. His 187-ball innings contained seven hits to the fence.
Sunny and Nitin Singh then combined well and rotated strike frequently to keep the West Zone bowlers at bay.
Captain Cheteswar Pujara shuffled his bowlers and pinned his hopes on Kamlesh, who was bowling on the trot.
Left arm medium pacer Samad Fallah finally broke the partnership when Sunny gave a thin edge to Parthiv. He made 46 and added 76 runs in 24 overs for the third wicket with Nitin (37), who was at the crease at the draw of stumps.
Seven bowlers operated for West Zone; Kamlesh claimed 2 for 60 and Samad 1 for 39.
North Zone (1st innings)::
Rahul Dewan c Ajinkya Rahane b Kamlesh Makwana 65
Shikhar Dhawan st Parthiv Patel b Kamlesh Makwana 101
Sunny Singh c Parthiv Patel b Samad Fallah 46
Nitin Saini batting 37
Extras: (lb-1, nb-1) 2
Total: (for three wkts in 89.2 overs) 251
Fall of wickets: 1-164, 2-175, 3-251
Bowling: Samad Fallah 17.2-4-39-1, Murtuja Vahora 15-6-30-0, Harmeet Singh 18-2-75-0, Abhishek Nayar 13-3-32-0, Kamlesh Makwana 22-4-60-2, Kaustubh Pawar 3-0-11-0, Kedhar Jadhav 1-0-3-0.