Shewag keeps North in the hunt after top order collapse
A blistering knock by Virender Shewag rescued North Zone from an embarrassing position as their battle for the first innings lead against West Zone spilled over into the final day at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. The hosts ended the penultimate day of this Duleep Trophy clash on 217/5, still 67 short of West's 284. For once, the fog did not interfere markedly with the proceedings, with 85.4 overs being flung down.
North seamers Ashish Nehra and Surendra Singh struck thrice in quick succession in the morning after they resumed at 174/5. Nehra bowled skipper Nayan Mongia for 10 in the day's second over. The new ball which was taken after 81 overs hustled out both Niraj Patel and Zaheer Khan to leave West in a pickle at 211/8. Sairaj Bahutule led a tailend rally that fetched 73 runs for the last two wickets, including a 47 run ninth wicket association with Iqbal Siddiqui in just 8.2 overs. Bahutule was last out, trapped leg before by the third seamer Gagandeep Singh for 42. Both Nehra and Surendra Singh ended with four wickets apiece.
Zaheer Khan made the breakthrough in the 11th over of North's reply, trapping skipper Vikram Rathour leg before. From 63/1, North lost three wickets in less than six overs as the West seam attack mercilessly probed their weaknesses. After hitting three boundaries in a forty minute long visit to the middle, Yuvraj Singh was caught behind by Mongia off Siddiqui. Last week's double centurion Dinesh Mongia barely troubled the scorers as he had his stumps rattled in Siddiqui's next over and when Santosh Saxena marched back Reetinder Sodhi into the dressing room for a five ball duck, North were 75/4.
Opener Akash Chopra had survived the onslaught, but shortly after posting his half century he became Siddiqui's third victim, trapped leg before for 54 (121 balls, 9 fours). Shewag and wicket keeper Pankaj Dharmani proceeded to frustrate West with an unbroken 105 run stand in 22.4 overs. Having struck 110 balls and struck 15 boundaries, Shewag ended the day twelve runs short of his second successive ton in the competition, while Dharmani had notched up 28. The three West speedsters had bowled 54 of the 60 overs with Siddiqui returning figures of 3/79.