Abhinav Mukund (164) and Amit Verma (148) struck hundreds as South Zone inched towards an outright win over Central Zone at the end of third day's play in the semi-final of the Duleep Trophy cricket tournament in Hyderabad on Friday.
Needing 770 runs to win, Central Zone were precariously placed at 73 for two in their second innings at stumps on the penultimate day of the four-day match.
Mohnish Mishra (30 not out) and wicketkeeper Naman Ojha (33 not out) were holding fort for Central after the visitors lost opener Aakash Chopra and skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar to Sreenath Aravind (2/15) in successive deliveries.
Earlier, resuming their second innings at the overnight score of 132 for two, first innings centurion Mukund and Verma notched contrasting hundreds while CM Gautam made a 79-ball 78 to propel South to 504 for seven declared in their second innings.
The Central bowlers hardly bothered both the overnight South batsmen -- Mukund and Verma -- as they played fluently to share a 236-run stand for the third wicket.
While Mukund's 164-run innings came off 216 balls and was studded with as many as 21 fours and three sixes, Verma faced just 161 deliveries en route to his ton during which he hit 15 boundaries and cleared the fence four times.
The partnership was eventually broken by Umesh Yadav (2/63) when he had Mukund caught by Devendra Bundela.
After Mukund's dismissal, Verma joined forces with Gautam to stitch 60 runs for the fourth wicket before departing, caught by Mishra off Akshay Wakhare (2/153).
South Zone: 443 and 504 for 7 decl in 100.3 overs (Abhinav Mukund 164, Amit Verma 148; Umesh Yadav 2/63).
Central Zone: 178 and 73 for 2 in 15 overs (Naman Ojha 33 not, Mohnish Mishra 30 not out; Sreenath Aravind 2/15).
North in control against West
Impressive bowling by Sumit Narwal (5-102) and Amit Mishra (3-108) put North Zone in a commanding position against West at the end of the third day's play in the Duleep Trophy semi-final in Vadodara on Friday.
Even as Ravindra Jadeja hit an unbeaten 170 off 242 balls, which was studded with 21 fours and five sixes, West's first innings folded for 392, in reply to North's 460 all out, at the Moti Baug ground.
At stumps on day three, North were comfortably placed at 191 for three in their second innings, leading by 259 runs, with Mithun Manhas batting on 48 and Yashpal Singh unbeaten on eight.
Earlier, resuming at 176 for five, West faced an uphill task to avoid the follow-on, but overnight batsman Jadeja saved the home team from humiliation with his gritty knock.
Jadeja played a sensible knock and held his ground even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end.
Resuming the day, the other overnight batsman, Pinal Shah, could only add six runs to his personal score before becoming the first casualty of the day.
Jaidev Unadkat (13) and Bhargav Bhatt (18) failed to sustain for long but the duo shared brief but crucial partnerships with Jadeja before falling victims to leg-spinner Mishra.
However Jadeja, who resumed on 62, held his nerve and went on to complete his century.
He also found able company in Murtuja Vahora (43) and together the pair consolidated the West innings.
From 261 for eight, the duo took West to 392 for nine before Vahora's innings was cut short by Delhi medium pacer Narwal, who then accounted for last man -- Samad Fallah to complete his five-wicket haul, leaving Jadeja not out on 170 at the other end.
North Zone got off a solid start in their second essay with openers Sarul Kanwar (53) and Shikhar Dawan (53) scoring half-centuries each.
With a healthy lead of 259 runs, North are expected go all out for a victory tomorrow.