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Duleep Trophy Final: Central ride on strong opening stand to take 111 runs lead

New Delhi: A strong opening partnership by Faiz Fazal and Jalaj Saxena helped Central Zone to take a 111-run lead in the second innings against South Zone, who were bowled out for 379 on the third day of the final Duleep Trophy cricket match at the Ferozeshah Kotla here Friday.

South, who were on overnight score of 308/4, suffered a batting collapse losing six wickets for 71 runs in the first session. Overnight batsman Lokesh Rahul fell on 185 while Hanuma Vihari made 75.

Openers Fazal (72) and Jalaj (71) gave Central a perfect start with a 128-run partnership to help the team reduce the deficit. Robin Bisht remained not out on 26 and Mahesh Rawat on 11 when the stumps were drawn with the score at 214/4 in the second innings. Central had scored 276 in the first innings.

Fazal and Jalaj provided a sparkling start, scoring heavily on square of the wicket. Jalaj initiated the flow of runs with two fours - one to the third-man fence and the other to the cover region in the third over of pacer R. Vinay Kumar.

Fazal, too, soon joined the party, a cover drive was followed by a hit to third-man boundary off Abhimanyu Mithun's bowling. Right-hander Jalaj continued to attack skipper Vinay, collecting three boundaries in a space of eight balls with slashes towards the point and backward point. He greeted spinner Shreyas Gopal with three shots to the fence while left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha also failed to keep the batting duo in check. Ojha was hammered straight over his head by Fazal, who along with Jalaj ensured that their team erases the deficit without much to worry.

The 128-run opening partnership was ended as Jalaj was trapped in front of the wicket by a faster ball from Ojha. The ball didn't turn much after pitching in the middle and Jalaj attempted a forward defensive shot but his reaction was late.

Bist, who scored 79 in the first innings joined Fazal but their stand continued for only 32 runs as Fazal fell attempting to pull a rising Vinay delivery. The ball landed in the hands of the deep square leg fielder Baba Aparajith.

Later, Naman Ojha scored a strokeful 27 before his cut shot went to first slip Robin Uthappa off Gopal. Menaria was given leg before off Gopal to leave the team in a spot of bother.

Earlier in the morning, Vihari kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and twos while mixing it up with some attacking shots like a daring pull off Pankaj Singh's bowling to start the day's scoring. He made full use of tossed up balls and hit two sixes off leggie Piyush Chawla and offie Jalaj Saxena to signal another bad day for Central.

However, the momentum swung in favour of Central. Spinners Piyush Chawla and Ali Murtaza, who went through a bad Thursday, did their best to limit the deficit.

Rahul lost his wicket after being castled by leggie Chawla when the team score read 359/5. The 22-year-old added only 17 runs to his overnight score of 168.

In the next over, left arm spinner Murtaza removed Vihari, who dragged the ball on to his stumps attempting a cross-bat stroke. Murtaza also dismissed R. Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Pragyan Ojha while H.S. Sharath was caught and bowled by Chawla.

Brief Scores: Central Zone: 276 all out & 214/4 (Faiz Fazal 72, Jalaj Saxena 71; Shreyas Gopal 2/43). South Zone 379 all out (Lokesh Rahul 185, Robbin Uthappa 80, Hanuma Vihari 75; Ali Murtaza 4/59, Pankaj Singh 3/67). Central lead by 111 runs.

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