Lahli: After registering an impressive come-from-behind win in their quarter-final against West Zone, a supremely confident East Zone side will take on a last edition's joint champions South Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final, from Wednesday.
It will be East that will start as favourites against South after their crushing 102-run win over West, having conceded a 44-run first innings lead. Also with the match played at the seamer-friendly Bansi Lal Stadium track here, East will hold an advantage having played a match here and winning it outright on the fourth day.
Skipper Manoj Tiwary has started the first-class season on a bright note with a gutsy century while the other Tiwary -- burly Jharkhand lad Saurabh also set up an exciting final day with a second innings ton.
Not to forget young Bengal southpaw Sudeep Chatterjee's attractive 99 and the spells from speedster Ashok Dinda and swing bowler Basant Mohanty. One also needs to give credit to Tripura's Rana Dutta for his fove-for effort in the first innings.
While South were joint champions last year along with North Zone after a rain-truncated final at Kochi, they have a relatively younger side this time with the Karnataka seam trio of skipper Ranganath Vinay Kumar, HS Sharath and Abhimanyu Mithun leading the bowling attack.
The only specialist spinner expected to be in the side is left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who will be eager to leave behind the controversies, that had cropped up due to talks on his action.
The three seam bowlers will try to exploit the lively conditions of the 22-yard strip on offer but South's batting looks a bit thin on strength in the absence of seasoned opener Murali Vijay along with the immensely talented duo of Lokesh Rahul and Karun Nair.
It will depend on veteran keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, India discard Abhinav Mukund and Robin Uthappa to show their pyrotechnics with the willow. The selectors will also keenly watch Baba Aparajith's performance if he gets the nod in the playing XI while Tamil Nadu batsman Ramaswamy Prasanna will also hold fort in the middle-order.