Central Zone’s batsmen, led by Robin Bist, were guilty of poor shot selection as they finished on 237 for 7 against South Zone on Day 1 of the Duleep Trophy final, in Delhi, on Wednesday.
Bist blew away a chance to register a hundred, getting out for 79 off 153 balls. His three-and-a-half hours’ stay at the wicket was studded with 12 sweetly-timed boundaries and a six.
For South, Baba Aparajith had figures of 2 for 26 while R Vinay Kumar, H S Sharath, Shreyash Gopal, Pragyan Ojha and Hanuma Vihari got a wicket each.
Central got partnerships of 68, 65, 52, but most of their batsmen were out after getting set. They had a couple of bad decisions going their way too, as umpires Anil Chaudhary and K Srinath got it wrong once each.
Despite a liberal coating of green, the Kotla wicket displayed its typical slow nature and the batsman had little difficulty in negotiating the pace trio of Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Sharath.
Such was the nature of the pitch that Vinay deployed seven bowlers, including four spinners, in the first session itself.
While last match's centurion, Jalaj Saxena (2), was dubiously adjudged caught behind off Vinay's bowling, Bist, in the company of Vidarbha opener Faiz Fazal (49), negotiated the South bowlers with ease.
With no real demons in the pitch, batting became easy as the effort balls like bouncers from medium pacers were imperiously pulled.
Bist, in particular, was at his delightful best against the spinners as he used his feet well.
The diminutive right-hander lofted Pragyan Ojha for a lovely six over extra cover. While he found the gaps with ease against the spinners, he rocked back to pull a Sharath short ball in front of square. The shot off the day was a late cut by Bist off leg-spinner Shreyash Gopal.
The Fazal-Bist duo added 65 runs for the second wicket before Baba Aparajith struck twin blows in the post-lunch session.
Southpaw Fazal, after doing all the hard work, threw it away trying to cut Aparajith and offering a simple catch to Hanuma Vihari at point.
All eyes were on Naman Ojha (4) and he started off with a boundary before a moment of indiscretion cost him dear. Aparajith bowled a flattish delivery and Ojha just smacked it straight to Vinay at mid-off.
With Central in a spot at 94 for three, Ashok Menaria (37) joined Bist and two Rajasthan lads carried out repair work, adding 68 runs for the fourth wicket.
As none of the South Zone bowlers could make an impact, Bist reached his 50 in due course and looked like going for a long haul in front of national selectors Vikram Rathoure and Saba Karim.
At 162, South profited from Dinesh Karthik's smart stumping off Hanuma Vihari's bowling. Disaster struck when Mahesh Rawat (0) was adjudged caught behind off Gopal's bowling at the stroke of tea, when it looked that he had not edged it.
Bist blew his chance of a hundred away when Ojha bowled a delivery that dipped and also stopped with the batsman committing on back-foot. He couldn't check his shot and the ball looped to Abhimanyu Mithun at mid-wicket, leaving Central tottering at 185 for six.
Arindam Ghosh (32 batting) and Piyush Chawla (30), however, stemmed the rot with their 52 run useful stand before the Central skipper got out to the last delivery of the day.
Central Zone (1st Innings): 237-7 (Robin Bist 79, Faiz Fazal 49, Ashok Menaria 37, Arindam Ghosh 32 batting; Baba Aparajith 2-26).
Image: Ashok Menaria bats
Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images