Stylish batsman Sridharan Sriram and Y Venugopalarao shared a 170-run partnership to lead South Zone's fight back against England 'A' in the Duleep Trophy cricket match in Gurgaon on Monday.
Chasing a mammoth victory target of 501 in the fourth innings, South Zone were 171 for 2 by close of play on the third and penultimate day at the TERI Oval.
Left-hander Sriram was batting on 78 while Venugopalarao was 88 not out.
The huge century stand between the two diminutive batsmen for the third wicket came after the tourists had declared their second innings at 297 for eight half an hour before tea and then dismissed the South's two opening batsman with only one run on the board.
But Sriram and Venugopalarao were in imperious form as they played some delightful strokes to blunt the England bowlers.
The latter, n particular, played some daring cuts over the slip fielders' head against the quick bowling of England international Simon Jones and Sajid Mahmood. The Andhra right-hander was also impressive with his copy book straight drives.
Venugopalarao's 88 contained 14 fours and came off 146 balls while Sriram's 78 included only seven fours but came at a faster rate in 99 balls.
Sriram built his innings with sharp singles but was not averse to opening the blade and turning the ball to cover or point boundary whenever the bowlers erred in line.
The duo's gallant batting not only enhanced their personal profile in the eyes of the national selectors on view but also has given their team a reason to hope for an improbable victory.
How much the finger injury to captain Sadagopan Ramesh, who did not bat in the first innings, proves to be a handicap remains to be seen. The left-handed opener has declared himself fit for the next match though.
Earlier, resuming at 88 for three, England's second string lost overnight batsman Matthew Prior with only one run added to the score.
But first innings centurion Kevin Pietersen once again came to the team's rescue with a swashbuckling 115 off 164 balls and included 10 fours and two sixes.
The tall right-hander fell to the left-arm spin of Sriram, playing a reverse sweep as the visitors accelerated the scoring rate.
South still allowed the proceedings to go out of control as Graham Napier (64 not out) and James Tredwell (36) added 57 runs for the seventh wicket.
England 'A' (1st innings): 377
South Zone (1st innings): 174
England 'A' (2nd innings):
S Newman c Khaleel b Sreeshant 10
E Smith run out 10
M Lumb b Sreeshant 0
K Pietersen b Sriram 115
M Prior lbw Sreeshant 0
B Shafayat st Khaleel b Joshi 34
G Napier not out 64
J Tredwell c Venugopalarao b Joshi 36
S Mahmood c sub b Joshi 8
S Jones not out 1
Extras: (b-4, lb-8, nb-2, p-5) 19
Total: (for 8 wkts decl in 79 overs) 297
Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-10, 3-85, 4-89, 5-168, 6-188, 7-245, 8-264.
Bowling: Sreeshant 19-2-79-3, N P Singh 6-2-11-0, Sunil Joshi 33-4-91-3, Ramkumar 15-0-71-0, Sridharan Sriram 5-0-21-1, Y Venugopalarao 1-0-7-0.
South Zone (2nd innings):
R Barrington b Francis 1
I Khaleel LBW b Mahmood 0
S Sriram not out 78
Y Venugopalarao not out 88
Extras: (lb-1, nb-3) 4
Total: (for 2 wickets in 41 overs) 171
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-1.
Bowling: Sajid Mahmood 7.1-2-15-1, Simon Francis 6-1-24-1, Simon Jones 3.5-0-34-0, James Tredwell 9-1-35-0, Graham Napier 6-0-22-0, Kevin Pietersen 8-0-39-0, Michael Lumb 1-0-1-0.