North Zone virtually sure to retain Duleep Trophy
North Zone made virtually sure of retaining the Duleep Trophy on Saturday. While the only team which seemed to have a chance to overhaul their points tally, South Zone, lost to East Zone by four wickets at Agartala, North Zone took a major step towards winning the title at the Feroze Shah Kotla when at stumps on the third day, Central Zone were 370 for eight off 103 overs in their first innings in reply to the home team's 690 for eight declared. Even if North Zone were to get no more than five points for the first innings lead, they will take their tally to 23 points from their four matches - a figure no other team is in a position to overhaul.
Resuming at 81 for one, Central Zone put up a good fight but in the pace of the imposing North Zone total, it was a hopeless cause. They suffered an early blow when their skipper and that prolific run getter around the domestic circuit Amay Khurasia was caught by Dinesh Mongia off Harbhajan Singh for 51. Khurasia who was in a punishing mood since he came in on Friday evening faced only 36 balls and hit nine fours and a six.
Jai P Yadav and Md Kaif then shared a third wicket partnership of 103 runs off 25.2 overs before the former was out for 78. The in form MP opening batsman faced 103 balls and hit 12 fours and a six. Kaif and Raja Ali then carried the total to 227 when the former was caught by Mongia off Rahul Sanghvi for 61. In a stay of 2-1/2 hours, Kaif faced 139 balls and hit six fours and two sixes.
Sanghvi also got rid of Ali (29) but a fighting knock by Yerra Goud sustained the Central Zone innings till close of play. The 29-year-old Railways right hander received some support from the tail. D Bundela (11), RJ Kanwat (17) and wicketkeeper Abhay Sharma (14) all stayed with Goud for some time as he raised his personal score as well as the side's total. By stumps he was unbeaten on 67. He has so far faced 160 balls and hit ten fours. Left arm spinner Sanghvi was the pick of the bowlers and finished with four for 47 off 25 overs. Off spinner Harbhajan Singh was rather expensive conceding 123 runs from 30 overs for his two wickets.