We, Central Zone, had the resources. With an 'all-India' bowling attack, we could well give sleepless nights to most domestic teams.
The track, quite unusual for a domestic game, had a thorough covering of fresh grass with enough moisture underneath to make the ball talk. And, with a ball like Kookaburra, used exclusively in the Duleep Trophy, difficult to handle on a responsive surface, it was going to get tougher for the batsmen, especially openers.
The toss was crucial and after winning it, we carelessly assumed the job was half done. And perhaps, that's where we got it wrong. We didn't bowl in the right areas and allowed the opposition to get off the hook. We squandered the advantage and East grabbed it with both hands. Both Tiwary and Jaggi helped themselves to fine centuries.
We, on the other hand, realised our mistake and tried to undo the error with the second new ball. We restricted East to 428, which was by no means paltry, but with 284/2 at one stage, one would have expected a score in excess of 500.
If Central had the resources, East had the resolve. They made up for their lower-order failure with a spirited bowling effort. East bowling was not even half as threatening as ours, but their hunger to gain the first-innings lead made all the difference. They bowled their hearts out and gained a slender lead, which everyone thought was enough to book a semifinal berth.
They ran in hard, hit the right areas consistently and made the ball swing and seam. If Pankaj bowled with a lot of pace, RP Singh bowled with a lot of control. Then Umesh Yadav came and blew the rest.
Orissa Cricket Association deserves a special mention for making a track, which had something for the bowlers even on the last day. We wouldn't have clawed our way back into the game if the track had been docile. Kudos to the curator!