Mohammad Kaif led from the front with a patient 112 while Piyush Chawla struck a brisk, unbeaten 70 as Central Zone reached 300 for seven on day one of the Duleep Trophy semifinal match against South Zone at Indore on Tuesday.
Put into bat, Central Zone lost Jalaj Saxena (7) and Sanjay Bangar (4) cheaply before the 55-run stand between Kaif (112) and Tanmay Srivastav (42) arrested the slide at the Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground.
Abhimanyu Mithun (3 for 44) dealt another blow when he removed Tanmay and Suresh Raina (22) too perished just when he was looking good.
Parvinder Singh (1) and Naman Ojha (14) could not make their mark either and at 154 for six, the situation looked anything but rosy for Central Zone.
Kaif, however, found an able ally in Chawla and the duo milked the South Zone attack with consummate ease during their 118-run stand.
Five overs before the close of play, Kaif fell to R Vinay Kumar after a 222-ball knock that had 17 fours in it.
Chawla's unbeaten 70 came off 102 balls with the help of nine fours and two sixes.
Giving him company with an 18-ball 17 was Praveen Kumar.