New Delhi: South Zone bowlers dished out a decent show to restrict Central Zone to 237 for 7 in 87 overs on the first day of the Duleep Trophy final at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday.
For Central, Robin Bist (79) steadied the ship with contributions from Faiz Fazal (49) and Ashok Menaria (37) as South bowlers led by skipper Vinay Kumar, Baba Aparajith and Pragyan Ojha bowled with purpose and discipline to put their team in a better position.
Opening bowlers Vinay and Abhimanyu Mithun's probing line on a slightly greenish wicket tested openers Fazal and Jalaj Saxena to the core. A struggling Saxena played 43 deliveries but managed to score only two runs till he was caught by wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik off Vinay's bowling with the team score reading 25 for 1 in 17.2 overs.
In came Bist who shared a useful 65-run partnership with Fazal, who relied more on the nudges and pushes to get it going before a cut shot landed in the hands of Hanuma Vihari off Aparajith's bowling.
The right-arm spinner pegged Central back with another strike in the same over.
In-form wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha (4) got off to a fine start with a cover drive on his fourth ball and in the next one offered a low catch to mid-off fielder Vinay, leaving the team in a spot of bother with the scorecard reading 94 for 3 in 39 overs.
Next, former India Under-19 skipper Ashok Menaria joined Bist, who was looking comfortable against the likes of H.S. Sharath and spinners Ojha and Shreyas Gopal.
The duo scripted a 68-run partnership for the fourth wicket to bail the team out of trouble. Both scored heavily on the cuts and late cuts to pile pressure on the bowlers, although briefly.
While Bist was especially aggressive against medium pacer Sharath, Menaria warned the opposition with three shots to the fence off a Mithun over.
But skipper Vinay brought in right-arm spinner Vihari, who did the job for his captain when wicketkeeper Karthik found the left-hander Menaria short of the crease just before tea.
South spinner Gopal inflicted further damage in the first over after tea, reducing Central to 163 for 5 with the wicket of Mahesh Rawat (0), who failed to close the face of the bat of a typical leg-spin ball.
Bist, with a personal score of 79, mistimed an Ojha ball to mid-wicket to leave his team reeling at 185 for 6.
Later, Arindam Ghosh, unbeaten 32 and skipper Piyush Chawla (30) consolidated the innings, adding 50 runs for the seventh wicket.
For South, 20-year-old Aparajith turned out to be the best bowler with figures of 2 for 26 while Vinay, Ojha, Sharath, Gopal and Vihari picked up a wicket each.
Brief scores: Central Zone 237 for 7 (Robin Bist 79, Faiz Fazal 49, Ashok Menaria 37; Baba Aparajith 2 for 26, Vinay Kumar 1 for 39) vs South Zone at stumps on Day 1.