Greater Noida: Inching closer to lifting the Duleep Trophy, India Blue took a virtually unassailable lead of 476 runs against India Red on a rain-truncated penultimate day of the tournament final at the Greater Noida Sports Complex Ground here on Tuesday.
Play was marred due to rain with two stoppages halting play. Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal scored a fifty and skipper Gautam Gambhir scored a fluent 36 as India Blue reached 139/3 at stumps. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav snared two wickets.
India test regulars Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja were at the crease on 22 and 3 respectively.
Resuming at the overnight total of 1/0, India Blue got off to a steady start with Gambhir and Agarwal stitching a 67-run partnership.Gambhir wasted little time to stretch the lead by punching Pradeep Sangwan through cover and point for the first runs of the evening. The 34-year old gave little leeway to Nathu Singh in the next over, clipping a full length delivery to the deep mid-wicket fence.
Nathu did not have a good time bowling to Gambhir as the seasoned campaigner carted him for two more boundaries in the sixth over of the evening.
Just as India Blue looked to be cruising smoothly, at 33/0 in six overs, there was another stoppage in play, this time for an hour and fifteen minutes. Gambhir looked good for a long innings after play restarted, but departed to the delight of India Red.
The dashing Delhi opener, though not happy with the decision, was drawn forward by a nicely tossed up delivery by Kuldeep forcing the southpaw to miss his front foot defence and let the ball spin away to hit him in front of the stumps.
Barring Kuldeep who has been Gambhir`s bane in the final, the 2011 World Cup star looked good for his 36 at a swift strike rate of 61.01.
At the other end, Agarwal played well for his 52 laced with seven fours. The 25-year old brought up his fifty in propitious fashion, flicking a Kuldeep delivery off the middle of the bat which Nathu misfielded at deep midwicket allowing the ball to trickle over the ropes. Agarwal brought up his 11th fifty in first-class cricket.
Soon after though, the right-hander perished, this time, Nathu making no mistake at deep midwicket. Trying to hit Kuldeep with the spin into the stands, the Karnataka batsman ended up dragging it to Nathu.
Dinesh Karthik did not last long, trying to be too swishy too early. Hurrying to a 12-ball 16, the experienced keeper stepped out to Amit Mishra missing the turn altogether.
Brief Scores: India Blue 693/6 declared (Cheteshwar Pujara 256 not out, Sheldon Jackson 134; Amit Mishra 2-171) and 139/3 (Mayank Agarwal 52; Kuldeep Yadav 2/47) lead India Red 356 (Stuart Binny 98, Mishra 65; Ravindra Jadeja 5-95) by 476 runs.