Twice in two days, morning spells have made a difference in the Duleep Trophy semifinal at the Ferozshah Kotla. Aided by a brand new Kokaburra ball, that's known to swing prodigiously when new, they have exposed the frailties of batsmen's defences and mind.
After North Zone's Parwinder Awana on Sunday, it was the turn of the mercurial Ashok Dinda on Monday.
North, comfortable at the overnight score of 162 for three, were shaken by Dinda who pitched the ball further than he'd done on Sunday to sow doubts in batsmen's mind.
Before the teams headed for lunch on Day Three, Dinda had changed the course of the match in East's favour by taking three wickets, two of which came with the new ball. Things ease out post-lunch at the Kotla but with the tail exposed and still armed with the cherry, Dinda didn't allow that to happen. North fell 28 short of the East total. The pacer took a career-best 8/123 and took his season's tally to 52.
East were 148 runs ahead at stumps and unless they suffer the morning blues on the last day, they should be flying to Indore for the final.
The North batsmen fished outside the off-stump. Mayank Sidhana and Puneet Bisht perished that way after Paras Dogra's soft dismissal at mid-off, to leave North tottering at lunch. Amit Mishra fell in the same manner later. Dinda kept his pace, length and tail up throughout.
The two-paced wicket too came to East's rescue. When the last pair was counter-attacking and threatening, Dinda caught Pradeep Sangwan by surprise with a short one that held back. Sangwan played early and pushed it back to the bowler.
In a pack
Planning and sacrifice was also the key. Dinda allowed Basant Mohanty to bowl with the wind while he bowled into it. Mohanty delivered 17 maidens out of his 36 overs to keep things tight at one end. Dinda leaked runs at the other but purchased wickets.
Sometimes rules can leave you heartbroken. The morning session saw kids from primary classes of a school turn up with notebooks. The cacophony was a welcome break from the silence of the first two days. They were searching for Dhoni, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Bhajji. When told about their unavailability, they settled for others. Unfortunately, no one scribbled on their notebooks, as rules don't allow players to interact with anyone during the match. They left early with blank faces, blank sheets.
Brief scores: East Zone 315 and 120/1 vs North Zone 287 (M Sidhana 55, M Sidhana 46, R Bhatia 45, Dinda 8/123)