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Final call for Test hopefuls

With a packed schedule ahead, the match is crucial for players like Chopra and Parthiv, reports K.R. Guruprasad.
By K.R. Guruprasad | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 11:19 PM IST

IT WOULD not be surprising if North Zone captain Mithun Manhas would have his team crowding around the telly making them watch a DVD of How The West Was Won on Monday evening.

Not that his team have suddenly decided to go the cowboy way but the title itself could prove inspiring, as they take on West Zone in the five-day Duleep Trophy final beginning at the Wankhede Stadium here on Tuesday.

The final, being the last longer version domestic match of the season, assumes huge significance for many players such as Aakash Chopra (North) and Parthiv Patel (West), who are riding on great form throughout the season, and are toiling for a comeback into the national team.

It also offers players such as Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Yusuf Pathan a chance to consolidate on their wonderful show so far.

With a long international cricket season loaded with Test matches coming up, the Duleep Trophy final would offer one last chance for the fringe players to make an impression that may make all the difference.

And both teams face each other with their batsmen riding on some amazing form.

If West Zone's Wasim Jaffer and Rahane had a Duleep Trophy second wicket record 342-run partnership during their game against the England Lions in Vadodara last week, for the Northerners, Manhas and the in-form Chopra (with 205* apiece), created another record partnership with their unbeaten stand of 368 for the third wicket against East Zone in Rajkot.

Chopra, incidentally, needs to score 170 runs more in two possible innings to become the highest run scorer in one domestic season in Indian first-class history. Vijay Bharadwaj, who aggregated 1,463 runs in the year 1998-99, holds the current record. Chopra with 1,292 runs against his name is now fourth on the all-time list. (see box)

However, batsmen from both the teams would be put to test on a wicket, which traditionally assists seamers initially and then the spinners. And in the previous matches, bowlers from both teams have done enough to keep the batsmen thinking.

North Zone pacer VRV Singh picked up a total of eight wickets against East Zone with a five-for in the first innings. West Zone's Siddharth Trivedi scalped four victims against the Lions in the second innings. But the win for West was fashioned by a five-wicket haul in the second innings by off-spinner Yusuf Pathan.

And it comes as no surprise that both teams bring in the confidence that they have got from their previous two wins. After nets on Monday, West Zone captain and wicket keeper Parthiv said, "We had a good win against England Lions in the last match and that has given us great confidence coming into this game."

West have left out off-spinner Ramesh Powar and have included Mohnish Parmar. About the pitch, Parthiv said, "Wankhede Stadium's pitch has always helped the fast bowlers initially but later, the pitch helps the spinners."

Manhas, however, said that he would not draw any conclusion about the pitch before Tuesday morning. "I will decide on my playing 11 only after I take a look at the pitch on Tuesday morning."

Squads

West Zone:

Parthiv Patel (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Sahil Kukreja, Yusuf Pathan, Rakesh Dhruv, Sandeep Jobanputra, Siddharth Trivedi, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rakesh Solanki, Mohnish Parmar, Ashraf Makda, Harshad Khadiwale, Samad Fallah.

North Zone:

Mithun Manhas (captain), Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan, Karan Goel, Yashpal Singh, Rajat Bhatia, Uday Kaul, Amit Mishra, Vikramjeet S Malik, Ashok Thakur, Joginder Sharma, VRV Singh, Paras Dogra, Ravi Inder Singh, Chetanya Nanda, Samiullah Beigh.

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