Bangalore: Captain Mohammad Kaif (73) and wicket-keeper Naman Ojha (85) struck half-centuries as Central Zone recovered from a top order collapse to trail by just three runs on the second day of the Duleep Trophy cricket match against South Zone here on Friday.
At draw of stumps, Central Zone were 326 for nine, a lead of seven runs with one first innings wicket in hand, in reply to South Zone's 329 all out, thanks to Kaif and Ojha who stitched a 127-run run stand for the fifth wicket after their side were reduced to 78 for four.
Murli Kartik was not out on 23 at close with Umesh Yadav the only batsman left to come for Central Zone.
Resuming at the overnight 30 for no loss, Central Zone lost four quick wickets in the morning session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Tanmay Srivastava was the first to be dismissed to part-timer Robin Uttappa for 24 and team score of 52 which triggered a batting collapse.
Shivakant Shukla (26) was the next batsman to go falling to S Sreesanth six overs later and for the addition of just 13 more runs.
Yere Goud (4) and Parvinder Singh (5) followed the two openers to the hut in quick succession as Central Zone totterred to 78 for four before the rescue act of Kaif and Ojha.
India discard Kaif, who showed no mercy to South Zone bowlers in his 50-ball 47 in the morning session, dropped anchor after lunch and his century plus stand with Ojha rescued Central Zone innings from disaster.
Kaif scored his third half-century and Ojha his second of the first-class season as the two took Central past 200 before Kaif was dismissed by M Suresh at team score of 205. Kaif hit 11 fours and a six in his 118-ball innings. His was the only wicket to fall in the post-lunch session.
Ojha's 85 came off 168 balls and included seven fours and two sixes before he fell to Sreesanth. After Kaif's dismissal he found support in Bhuvneshwar Kumar who scored a dogged 68-ball 28.
Towards the close, Piyush Chawla (35) and Kartik (23 not out) had some fireworks to inch closer towards the South Zone total.
Chawla's 35 came from just 28 balls which included seven hits to the fence before he fell to R Ashwin, while Kartik was just a shade less attacking in his 32-ball unbeaten 23 which was studded with four boundaries.
For South Zone, Sreesanth returned 3/92 from his 25 overs while Laxmipathy Balaji and Robin Uttappa took two wickets apiece.
Live Score, News & WC 2019 Updates