Central Zone enter Duleep semi-final

Cuttack: Hostile spells from pace trio of Rudra Pratap Singh, Pankaj Singh and Umesh Yadav saw Central Zone register a fantastic nine-wicket win over East Zone in a Duleep Trophy quarterfinal match which concluded at the Barabati Stadium on Saturday.

East Zone, who had a first innings lead of 37 runs were shot out for a meagre 96 in their second essay thanks to some inspired bowling by RP (3/42), Pankaj (3/34) and Yadav (3/17).

Needing 134 to win, Central Zone openers Aakash Chopra (59 not out, 10x4) and Mohnish Mishra (50, 6x4, 2x6) sealed the issue as they won inside 35 overs.

The East batsmen simply didn`t have an answer to pace and swing generated by the pacers as they failed to survive more than 35.4 overs.

Barring skipper Manoj Tiwary (21, 3x4), none of the East batsmen were able to apply themselves. All East needed was to bat out time in order to win by virtue of first innings lead.

The East batsmen despite being in an advantageous position spurned the chance of making it to the last four as the batsmen suddenly got into a shell. This gave the Central Zone pacers more chance to press home the advantage. Rather than showing positive intent, home team batsmen succumbed in pressure situation.

Within 25.2 overs, the entire top order was back in the hut. Orissa batsman Nataraj Behera (5) was the first to go when he nicked one to Naman Ojha behind stumps off Pankaj.

The two centurions of the first innings Ishank Jaggi (20) and skipper Tiwary then batted for the next half an hour during which they added 19 runs in 7.3 overs.

Pankaj Singh who was bowling unchanged from one end got two wickets in his ninth and the 18th over of the innings. Of the second ball, he trapped Jaggi leg before and of the last delivery of that over he induced an edge off Wriddhiman Saha (0) which was gleefully accepted by Naman Ojha behind stumps.

At 44 for four, East were suddenly in trouble and with Saurabh Tiwary unable to bat, all hopes were pinned on Manoj for taking his side to safety. But that was not to be as Yadav who recently was a part of the Test team got East skipper to nick one to Ojha for his third catch.

At 61 for five it was all over for East as RP and Yadav cleaned up the lower half to set up for victory which looked improbable till yesterday.


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