Sarandeep's star turn puts North on course for an outright win at Indore
A dazzling all-round performance from Sarandeep Singh has put North Zone on course for an outright win over Central Zone in the four-day Duleep Trophy encounter being played at the Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground, Indore. With just the final day's play left, North Zone needed just 111 runs to seal their victory with as many as nine second innings wickets in hand.
In the morning, North, who resumed at 288 for seven, were again well served by the overnight batsmen Akash Chopra and Sarandeep Singh. The duo, who had added an unbeaten 90 runs by stumps on the second day, realised a further 60 runs before Chopra was dismissed for a patient 143 off 293 balls.
Rahul Sanghvi, who replaced him, did not last long, being out for just four, but next man Shakti Singh proved an able ally for Sarandeep. With Singh proving his shakti in an aggressive cameo of 23 off 24 balls, which included three fours and one towering six, and Sarandeep also scoring the runs, North went past the Central first innings score of 368 with some ease. The ninth wicket partnership yielded 47 runs before Shakti Singh fell to Central's most successful bowler, Jai P Yadav.
With only last man Vineet Sharma for company, Sarandeep decided to go for his shots in a desperate attempt to reach the cherished three-figure mark. But sadly that landmark was to elude him as he was dismissed on 94. For Central, Yadav returned figures of 4 for 94 from his 23 overs.
Sarandeep, however, was not to let the disappointment of missing a ton haunt him for long. With Central 60 for one at the start of the 15th over of their second innings, he struck, claiming No.3 PH Sutane for a fiery 50 off just 49 balls.
Sutane's innings had played major role in calming the nerves of the North batsmen, who had first witnessed the fall of their first wicket with just one run on the board and later seen their captain Gagan Khoda retire hurt with the score reading 12 for one.
Next man Jai P Yadav and Yere Goud, then, forged another useful partnership for Central, adding 44 runs in 9.4 overs. But once Yadav was run out, the North innings collapsed even despite the return of Khoda.
Sarandeep claimed four more wickets, to end up with the flattering analysis of 19-6-49-5 in the innings. Vineet Sharma, who had earlier claimed four wickets in Central's first innings, continued to impress in his debut season in first-class cricket, claiming another three wickets.
Central's eventual second innings total of 175 in 49.2 overs left North needing just 137 for a win. Despite the early loss of Vikram Rathour for four, they appear to be well on track to completing the formalities on the final day. Opener and first innings centurion Akash Chopra, batting on 18, and No. 3 Sangram Singh on 3 will resume battle when play resumes.