B Indrajith's unbeaten 120 was the cornerstone of India Red's batting effort on Day 1. © Wisden India

[File pic] B Indrajith’s unbeaten 120 was the cornerstone of India Red’s batting effort on Day 1. © Wisden India

B Indrajith’s unbeaten century shored up India Red even as Ankit Rajpoot and Jaydev Unadkat shared five wickets for India Blue to keep the honours even at the end of the first day of the second match of the 2017-18 Duleep Trophy.

After Dinesh Karthik won the toss on Wednesday (September 13) and opted for first strike at Kanpur’s Green Park, India Red started well with a first-wicket stand of 70 runs between Priyank Panchal and Sudip Chatterjee, but lost wickets at frequent intervals after that. Indrajith, who came in at No.5, didn’t get any serious support or manage to forge a significant partnership till the very end, when Vijay Gohil proved difficult to dislodge. Howeer, he held the innings together, ending the 84-over day on 120 not out as India Red got to 291 for 9.

Panchal seemed to be continuing his form from the previous game, when he scored 105 and 133 not out in India Red’s 170-run win over India Green, as he buckled down in collaboration with Chatterjee, who had scored 52 in the first innings the last time around. Both batsmen have been accustomed to playing long innings and seemed on course to do just that when Rajpoot had Panchal lbw for 36, scored off 78 balls.

That was in the 25th over of the innings and one wicket led to another as Suresh Raina, the India Blue captain, found a way through Chatterjee’s defence to send him back for a 72-ball 34, the two openers falling on either side of the tea break.

That left India Red at 74 for 2, which soon became 99 for 4 by the 34th over, when Karthik fell, and then 138 for 6 when Karn Sharma, the bowling star of India Blue’s win over India Green with ten wickets for the match, became Rajpoot’s third wicket.

Ankit Rajpoot returned 3 for 44 as the India Red middle-order failed to get going. © BCCI

[File pic] Ankit Rajpoot returned 3 for 44 as the India Red middle-order failed to get going. © BCCI

Indrajith stuck it out though, carrying on despite the rush of wickets, and finally got support at the fag end of the day from Gohil, the No. 11 batsman.

Indrajith’s partnerships were worth eight runs (with Karthik), 24 (with Rishabh Pant), 15 (with Karn), 21 (with CV Milind), 36 (with Siddarth Kaul) and 10 (Basil Thampi), the last two men falling to Unadkat, both caught by Raina at second slip, before Gohil and he put on 86 unbroken runs for the last wicket.

Indrajith, who replaced Ishank Jaggi in one of three changes India Red made to the playing XI from the previous game, played smartly, trying to farm the strike but also finding the fence often enough. And when Raina spread the field towards the end, he went over, hitting two sixes to go with his 12 fours for the day on a pitch that still had something in it, especially for the quicker bowlers.

Gohil, a left-arm spinner by trade whose first-class batting average before this game was 1.66 and whose best effort was two runs, scored for Mumbai in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy against Tamil Nadu, outdid himself when Indrajith must have felt that hitting big to try and lift the total was the only option left. Gohil ended the day on 22 not out from 35 balls, even as Indrajith got to his century and carried on to keep India Red hoping for a 300-plus total.

Brief scores: India Red 291/9 in 84 overs (Priyank Panchal 36, Sudip Chatterjee 34, B Indrajith 120 n.o.; Ankit Rajpoot 3-44, Jaydev Unadkat 2-64) v India Blue.