North Zone win the Duleep Trophy
North Zone 330 and 400 beat East Zone 322 and 349 (Powar 97, Dhoni 60) by 59 runs
Mithun Manhas proved to be the secret weapon as North Zone triumphed by 59 runs after dismissing East Zone for 349 in an absorbing contest at Mohali. This was the 16th time that North Zone had won the Duleep Trophy, making them the most successful team in the history of this competition. Manhas removed Kiran Powar, who had stood like a rock between North Zone and victory, and when he bowled Shiv Sundar Das for a first-ball duck, East Zone's hopes evaporated.
North's bowlers proved ineffective in the windy first hour as Saurashish Lahiri, the nightwatchman, and Powar worked the ball around. Curbing his attacking instincts, Powar smothered Sarandeep Singh's spin with some deft pad-play. And though Lahiri was guilty of two or three ambitious flourishes, he kept the runs coming. When he lofted Dinesh Mongia over square leg for six, East Zone seemed in complete control.
Sarandeep Singh gave North Zone a whiff of hope when he enticed Lahiri (27) to grope at one that spun slightly. The ball looped up for an easy catch at silly point (264 for 5). Mongia wheeled away, even when the new ball was an option, and Gandhi (9) edged a wide one that kept low (284 for 6). But the magical throw of the dice came in the 82nd over of the innings. Manhas, skipping in and bowling his quick offspinners, nearly had a wicket in his first over, but a confident appeal for lbw against Powar was turned down. But he bowled Shiv Sundar Das first ball, and dried up the runs completely in a nagging spell.
Manhas conceded only seven runs in seven overs before lunch, forcing East Zone to withdraw into defensive mode. Immediately after the interval, he lured Powar into a false shot and the ball ballooned into the covers. Mongia dived acrobatically and pulled off a splendid catch, leaving Powar three short of his second hundred of the match (311 for 7). Manhas finished with 3 for 15, a telling contribution in the final analysis, even though he failed with the bat.
Mongia took the new ball soon afterwards, and the tailenders swished around for 45 minutes before Amit Bhandari ended the fun with the last two wickets.
Both captains were unanimous about the turning-point of the match. "Yuvraj made the difference in the end," said Gandhi after the match. "If he hadn't been there it would have been a different story. Kiran [Powar] batted really well, but the three quick wickets today cost us the match."
Mongia voiced a similar opinion about Yuvraj, and said he wasn't too perturbed about the fielding. "Yuvraj is one of the best fielders in the country and if he can drop them, it just shows that anyone can. We knew it was just a matter of one or two wickets, and we did a great job in the end."