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The countdown begins

india Updated: Mar 16, 2009 00:18 IST

The countdown to the Deodhar Trophy final begins on Monday with the last pair of group league matches promising contrasting affairs.

In Group A, Central Zone must win with a bonus point against East, for whom even a defeat without conceding the bonus will do. In Group B, Zimbabwe President's XI need to snatch bonus point from West and force a three-way tie, also involving South, to let net run rates come into play.

To make it tough for the Zimbabweans, West have decided against resting key players. "Initially we had thought of making changes to the XI that beat South. An afterthought prompted us to retain the team," said skipper Wasim Jaffer.

The Central-East clash should be interesting. With bonus point becoming important, toss becomes crucial and teams should prefer batting second unless they expect the pitch to get slower in the second half. Irrespective of how it behaves, Central will expect their bowlers to do a lot better than they did against North. On paper, they have the best pace attack comprising RP Singh, Bhuvnesh Kumar and Pankaj Singh to go with spin duo of Piyush Chawla and Murali Kartik.

"Usually, chasing seems a better option in the situation we are in, but it depends on how the conditions are. And you can't keep thinking of bonus points. We have to take it step by step and think of winning first."

While Kaif felt his team would have the advantage of being familiar with conditions at this venue, East skipper Manoj Tiwary said a stern test awaits them in an unknown ground. "We are in a slightly better position (because of the bonus they got against North) but it doesn't make our task easier. We have to be at our best."

"It's about team effort and that's what our batsmen showed in the last match. We needed contributions from everybody and barring me, all got runs."

Tiwary is obviously right in saying it's about teamwork, but it seems that on Monday, East's fortunes will depend on their batsmen. Not many big names there and up against a battery of well-known bowlers, Monday will tell how much names matter.