The first semi-final of the Duleep Trophy between defending champions East Zone and South Zone is interestingly poised with the former scoring 126 for six in their second innings to enjoy a slender 152-run lead at stumps on day 3 in Visakhapatnam.
The East bowlers, led by Iresh Saxena and Samar Quadri, bowled out South Zone for 244 in 82.4 overs in their first innings to eke out a narrow 23-run lead.
However, the East batsmen failed to capitalise and lost six wickets for 129 runs at stumps at Dr. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy stadium here.
With just four wickets left, it will be interesting to see how the East batsmen fair in the first hour of play on Wednesday.
If they fail to survive the initial moments, then South Zone's Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey could take the game away from East.
Earlier, Qadri and Saxena picked up two wickets each and Ashoke Dinda claimed one as South Zone could add just 110 runs to their overnight score of 134-5, to end 23 runs behind East's first innings score.
However, East played poor cricket in their second essay as barring skipper Natraj Behera (60), none of the batsmen could make any mark. Behera had eight fours in his 113-run innings.
Dheeraj Jadhav (21) and Anustup Majumdar (22) also got starts but failed to convert them as East Zone finished the day at 129-6 in 52 overs.
Stuart Binny (2/25) was the pick of the bowlers for South, while R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, R Aushik Srinivas and Amit Verma picked up one wicket each.
East Zone: 267 all out and 129 for six (Natraj Behera 60; Stuart Binny 2/25).
South Zone: 244 all out (R Vinay Kumar 61; Biplob Samantray 3/41).