Maharashtra batsman Ankit Bawne scored a gutsy century under pressure as West Zone took a vital 43-run first innings lead against East Zone on the second day of the Duleep Trophy quarter-final, here on Thursday.
Responding to East's 278 in the first innings, West skipper Cheteshwar Pujara (10) failed with the bat but middle-order batsman Bawne scored a patient 105 off 194 balls to help the team end Day 2 on 321 for nine.
Credit should also be given to Yusuf Pathan for his attractive run-a-ball 73 that went a long way in West grabbing the first innings lead. All eyes were on Pujara but he was castled by seamer Basant Mohanty due to lack of footwork.
While Bawne's knock had eight fours and two sixes, Pathan predictably was more attacking in his less than two hour stay hitting 10 fours and two sixes.
For East, Tripura seamer Rana Dutta got five for 60 but Pathan and Bawne's 124-run sixth-wicket stand could prove to be decisive in the final context of the game.
An hour's batting on the third morning could completely shut the game for Manoj Tiwary's East Zone as then they will have to play a catch-up game trying to set up a total and go for an outright win.
In the morning, Aditya Tare (4), Vijay Zol (17), Pujara and Parthiv Patel (1) were all out cheaply as West were tottering at 121 for five, still better from their first-hour score of 47 for four.
However, with Pathan coming in and being dropped at the score of seven, things went downhill for the East. He started to attack and runs came at a quick clip.
By tea time, West were less than 50 runs short of East's first innings score. Pathan hit Rana for a six and a four before edging one to Manoj in the slips off the bowler.
But then West were only 34 runs shy off taking the lead. Bawne completed his century off 180 balls by pushing for a quick single off Datta's delivery.
Fittingly enough, it was the Maharashtra lad, who got the important single that gave them the lead tapping one to mid-wicket.
Once Bawne was trapped leg before by an incoming delivery from Dutta, West were 291 for nine with only a 13-run lead. But Dhawal Kularni (15 batting) and Shardul Thakur (19 batting) saw off the remaining overs of the day as a 'bumper-happy' Ashoke Dinda (2/92) wasted the second new-ball, bowling either too short or too full.
Brief Scores: East Zone 1st Innings 278
West Zone 1st Innings 321/9 (Ankit Bawne 105, Yusuf Pathan 73, Rana Dutta 5/60).