Spinner Ravindra Jadeja reaped rich dividends for reading the pitch well and grabbed 5 for 95 as India Blue looked all set to win the first-ever day/night Duleep Trophy, having secured a huge 337-run first-innings lead.
India Red could only manage 356 in 98.1 overs and Jadeja was parsimonious in his 34 overs. He was also fast and accurate, giving batsmen little room to manoeuvre.
At end of third day’s play, Blues were one for no loss in their second innings after Gautam Gambhir decided against enforcing the follow-on.
The Blues now have a total lead of 338 with the result looking like a mere formality.
Starting the day at 16 for two, India Red had two of their mainstays Shikhar Dhawan (29) and Yuvraj Singh (17) at the crease.
Yuvraj didn’t look in his element, taking 31 balls to open his account. He was finally gone when Abhimanyu Mithun angled one across as he went for expansive drive. The edge flew at first slip and Cheteshwar Pujara caught on second attempt.
Dhawan, who spanked a few boundaries, tried an audacious reverse sweep off Jadeja, only to be caught by Mayank Agarwal at forward short leg.
At 67 for four, the match was as good as over for Reds, but Gurkeerat Singh Mann (57, 9×4) and Stuart Binny (98, 12×4, 4×6) delayed the inevitable.
The day belonged to Jadeja who did all the right things that Amit Mishra and Kuldeep Yadav failed during first two days.
Sensing that the pitch was placid and slow, Jadeja bowled flat and quick through the air beating the batsmen for pace. Those who played for the arm ball, like Gurkeerat, saw the delivery turn enough to clip off stump. The likes of Binny and Pradeep Sangwan wanted to play for classical left-arm spinner’s delivery and found the delivery coming in with an angle to hit the back leg.
But Binny, who has been dropped from the Test squad for the New Zealand series, did play some attacking strokes and he was the only one who hit Jadeja for five boundaries. Four huge sixes were hit off Karn Sharma and Parveez Rasool.
Away from cricketing action, an incident took place when an inebriated Ghaziabad boy, Sandeep Prakash, entered the playing arena, causing security breach, before being quickly overpowered by police who took him out of the stadium.
Brief scores:India Blue 693/6 decl and 1/0. India Red 356 in 98.1 overs (Stuart Binny 98, Gurkeerat Singh Mann 57, Ravindra Jadeja 5/95).
Image: Ravindra Jadeja appeals for a wicket during a Test match