When a team chases down a target of 251 with seven wickets to spare, it indicates that the batsmen had put in a strong performance. An equally important highlight of North Zone's win over Central in Friday's Deodhar Trophy tie was a decisive effort by the bowlers in the last 10 overs in the first half.
Central were headed for a big one, ending over No. 40 at 199 for three with Mohammad Kaif well set to accelerate. Led by Chetnya Nanda with good support from others, especially Vikramji Malik, North choked Central. Their batsmen then contributed in unison before Virat Kohli finished it off. A win again East on Saturday will put North in the final.
The first match of a senior national championship at the picturesque ground at the historic Ravenshaw College was played on a pitch which might have been a touch slow, but a good one for batting in general. The outfield however wasn't among the best. Electing to bat, Central appeared to be cruising before faltering despite getting two important partnerships.
Naman Ojha anchored the innings with the help of Rajesh Bishnoi and Kaif. The Madhya Pradesh wicketkeeper kept things simple and unleashed the big shots when given a chance. He fell immediately after reaching hundred (100 of 111, 6x4, 4x6) when the stage was set for a final assault.
Apart from the miserly leg-spin of Nanda, who conceded eight runs in his last four overs including a maiden in the 41st, Malik ensured the shackles were not broken. The burly bowler from Himachal Pradesh didn't cause problems with pace, but kept things tight by making it awkward for batsmen. He took three wickets in his last three overs, which to go with Pradeep Sangwan's two in his final spell, undid the good job done by Ojha.
Given the names in their attack, Central were expected to put up a fight. They started the second half as poorly as they had ended the first with the medium-pacers bowling to both sides and often erring in length. Aakash Chopra was putting the loose ones away in style with Rahul Diwan feasting on the short ones. With a natural tendency to play on the back foot, the newcomer punished a few before hitting a similar one to point.
Although Chopra was run out in the 22nd over, Kohli with skipper Mithun Manhas saw to it that there was no panic. Bhuvnesh Kumar having an off day meant that Kaif was handicapped in the pace department. His main spinners too failed to make an impact and he had to turn his arm over with negligible effect. Continuing his fine run in domestic one-dayers, Kohli played some powerful shots to hasten the end.
Nagar under scanner
Delhi's Yogesh Nagar is likely to become the latest entry to the growing list of off-spinners with suspect actions. Friday's match officials are expected to report against him and recommend a corrective operation at the National Cricket Academy.
West Zone win
West Zone tripped in the middle stage of their opening match but still ground out a convincing 71-run win which earned them a bonus point. It put them on five points and left south on minus one.