India Red are closing in on their second Duleep Trophy in three years following an innings of 153 from Bengal batsman Abhimanya Easwaran which helped his side to a lead of 114 at stumps on the third day of their final against India Green, at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Now in its fourth year since the competition was revamped, the Duleep Trophy is the curtain raiser for the Indian domestic season, and features a round-robin competition between three teams chosen by the BCCI selectors – India Blue, Red and Green. The top two teams meet each other in a live televised final, played with the red ball, and staged as a day and night match over five days.
It was India Green, appearing in their first final, who batted first, and they were heavily reliant on 76 not out, scored by 21 year old Mayank Markande, batting at number eight. Without his contribution, and the partnerships he formed with the number 10 and 11, batsmen, Tanveer Ul-Haq, and Ankit Rajpoot, who scored 18 and 30 respectively, Indian Green would have struggled even more than they did in reaching 231 all out.
Jaydev Unadkat was the most successful bowler for the Reds with 4 for 83, whilst there were two wickets apiece for Sandeep Warrier and Avesh Khan.
India Red had already eaten into that deficit considerably by the time that day three started, resuming on 175 – 2, and it was Easwaran who showed the way, adding a further 102 to his overnight score, and sharing a partnership of 101 with Ankit Kalsi who was content to play second fiddle, scoring just 30 of them. Easwaran faced 300 balls in his innings and hit 2 sixes and 16 fours.
By the time that the 23 year old opener Easwaran, who featured for India A in the Deodhar Trophy last October, was dismissed by Ul-Haq lbw playing across the line, his side had already established a 34 run lead, which Ishan Kishan helped to consolidate, with a rapid 39 scored off just 56 balls.
Still at the crease are Aditya Sarwate who is unbeaten on30, and Unadkat, 10 not out. The pair will be looking to push on in the course of the fourth morning, and try to extend the lead close to 200.
Then it will be down to India Green’s batsman to see if they can make a better showing second time round than they did – Markande and the tail apart – in their first innings.