In his first first-class innings since being treated for cancer, Yuvraj Singh
smashed an unbeaten 133 as he set about showing he still had the fitness to play the long form of the game. His century and a 121 from opener Shikhar Dhawan
pushed North Zone
to a strong 346 for 4 against Central Zone
On the eve of the match he had been unsure whether he could handle the rigour of the first-class game. "This is my first duration game (after the illness), so I don't know how my body will behave," Yuvraj had said. "I know my body will get tired, but I need to get through the four days."
Yuvraj hasn't played a first-class match since the Kolkata Test against West Indies last November. While recovering from cancer, he had said he initially wanted to play T20 cricket, before testing himself in one-dayers and first-class matches as they were tougher on his body. His comeback began with the T20s against New Zealand last month, before he played the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
Yuvraj's performance overshadowed Dhawan, who hit his sixth successive 50-plus score - including three centuries. The pair scored at a T20 rate, putting on 160 for the third wicket in 122 deliveries against an attack that included the experienced left-arm spinner Murali Kartik and India medium-pacer Praveen Kumar.
After a sedate start, seamer Rituraj Singh dismissed opener Rahul Dewan for 17, but wicketkeeper Nitin Saini stuck with Dhawan for a stand of 75. After Saini was dismissed in the 53rd over, Yuvraj arrived to boost the scoring rate. At tea, the pair had put on 111 runs off 62 deliveries. The partnership ended when Dhawan was caught and bowled by Kartik in the 73rd over. Mandeep Singh was dismissed soon after but Dogra stuck with Yuvraj for 16.2 overs to prevent any further damage till stumps.
Yuvraj, who played only 152 deliveries for his unbeaten knock, smashed 20 fours and two sixes, both over deep mid-wicket and off Kartik. The second six brought up his century.
Kartik was happy for Yuvraj after the match. He tweeted: "Fabulous knock by [Yuvraj] so happy to see him in such imperious form..:hope all the detractors are happy now."
At Visakhapatnam, East Zone
had a completely different start to their semi-final, collapsing to 66 for 6 against South Zone
before Saurabh Tiwary
and Basant Mohanty
put on an unbroken 121-run stand to prevent more embarrassment.
After a delay of 45 minutes due to rain, South Zone took charge grabbing their first wicket in the third over. Within the 13th over, East Zone had lost their first four batsmen for 21. Tiwary, playing his first major match since the IPL, then resisted for 67.2 overs, and kept the attack at bay with the help of No. 8 Mohanty. No other East Zone batsman made more than 11 runs.
Seamers Abhimanyu Mithun and Stuart Binny took two wickets apiece. Binny took both his wickets in one over when East Zone captain Nataraj Behera and Anustup Majumdar were both dismissed in the 13th over.