Upbeat East ready to take on North Zone in Duleep semi-final

New Delhi: An upbeat East Zone side, under Nataraj Behera`s leadership, will be aiming to make it to its first Duleep Trophy final since 2005-06 season when it takes on North Zone at the Feroz Shah Kotla from Saturday.

East Zone have never performed well in the inter-zonal first-class tournament and are yet to win their maiden Duleep Trophy title, while North have won it a whopping 17 times.

Talented Orissa batsman Nataraj Behera, however, wants to turn the table this time.

"We have the confidence to do well after winning outright against West Zone in the last match. The addition of Wriddhiman Saha will also bolster our line-up," Behera told mediapersons on the eve of the match.

With Wriddhiman`s addition, the only change in the line-up will be Shreevats Goswami making way for the India international.

The batting will largely depend on the two in-form batsmen Behera and Anushtup Majumdar. Veteran opener Dhiraj Jadhav and Jharkhand lad Ishank Jaggi who failed in the last match would also like to make significant contribution.

The bowling unit is likely to remain unchanged with Ashok Dinda, Abu Nechim Ahmed and Basant Mohanty being the three pacers. Biplab Samantray will bowl his military medium stuff while left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem will be the only specialist slow bowler.

The Feroz Shah Kotla strip has a greenish look but it will certainly be loaded in favour of batsmen. It will be a `win-the-toss-and-bat-first` kind of strip.

The advantage for North Zone will be the presence of Delhi seamer Parvinder Awana who knows the Kotla strip like the back of his hand. Former India U-19 seamer Harshal Patel, who had taken back-to-back eight-fors in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final and semi-final, will also like to impress one and all.

The Kotla strip is known to assist the spinners during the later part of the match and North have a wily bowler in skipper Amit Mishra. The batting will largely depend on senior Delhi opener Shikhar Dhawan along with Haryana opener Rahul Dewan and Punjab youngster Mandeep Singh.

Squads

East Zone (likely XI): Dhiraj Jadhav, Manish Vardhan, Ishank Jaggi, Nataraj Behera (capt), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Anushtup Majumdar, Biplab Samantray, Shahbaz Nadeem, Ashok Dinda, Basant Mohanty, Abu Nechim Ahmed.

North Zone (likely XI): Rahul Dewan, Shikhar Dhawan, Paras Dogra, Mandeep Singh, Mayank Sidhana, Rajat Bhatia, Punit Bisht (wk), Amit Mishra, Parvinder Awana, Harshal Patel, Pradeep Sangwan.

Umpires: Shaun George (South Africa) & S Ravi

Match Referee: Vijender Yadav.

PTI

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