Mohali: Central Zone's MP duo of Jalaj Saxena and wicketkeeper batsman Naman Ojha took full advantage of dropped catches sending an inexperienced North Zone attack to the cleaners as they posted 344 for three at stumps, on the first day of their Duleep Trophy semi-final, here yesterday.
Opener Jalaj struck 110 while glovesman Ojha in the form of his life, remained undefeated on 122 as none of the North bowlers deployed by captain Gautam Gambhir could create an impact on a placid PCA Stadium track on the day.
North Zone fielders dropped as many as four catches with Ojha being dropped twice on 12 and 27 off Yuzvendra Chahal and Rishi Dhawan's bowling. The offenders were Parvinder Awana at mid-on in the first case and wicketkeeper Nitin Saini in the second case.
In fact Saxena also got a reprieve on personal score of 75 while Ashok Menaria (53 batting) was also dropped once. Ojha in fact served a timely reminder to the selectors, that he still is in the mix, with scores of 219 not out, 101 not out, 110 and 122 batting in his last four first-class innings. His first three centuries were during the two first-class matches against Australia A, Down Under.
Central skipper Piyush Chawla won the toss and rightly elected to bat. Vidarbha opener Faiz Fazal (22) edged one off Rishi Dhawan after Central openers saw off the first hour putting on 55 on the board. While Robin Bist (20) didn't last long being bowled by Jammu and Kashmir's medium pacer Samiullah Beigh.
However Jalaj and Ojha, then conjured a 140 runs partnership in just 36 overs to up the ante. Jalaj hit 17 boundaries in his 187 ball knock while Ojha has so far hit 14 boundaries and two sixes in 193 balls. Ojha completed his 17th first-class century with a deft late cut boundary off Chahal.
The unbroken fourth wicket stand with Menaria has so far yielded 107 runs with Menaria hitting six boundaries in the 93 balls that he has faced so far. Rishi Dhawan had the best figures for North with 2/93.
Brief Scores: Central Zone 344/3 in 90 overs (Naman Ojha 122 batting, Jalaj Saxena 110, Ashok Menaria 53 batting, Rishi Dhawan 2/93) vs North Zone.