With the race for a spot in the Deodhar Trophy final intensifying, North Zone faces West Zone in a crucial fourth-round match at the Siechem Stadium in Puducherry on Sunday.
While West has its fortunes in its hands with two wins in three games, North has ceded its mandate to other teams, having won only one game in its campaign so far. It is currently fourth in the six-team table and has a slender chance of making the summit clash.
Priyank Panchal’s men enter the clash after pulling off a thrilling heist against Central Zone, emerging victorious by just one wicket on Friday.
The team suffered a middle-order collapse for the second time in succession after a 12-run loss to South Zone in round three, where half the side perished under 100 in a 206-run chase.
However, against Central, Atit Sheth’s run-a-ball fifty, Rajvardhan Hangargekar’s quickfire knock (24 off 12), and Chintan Gaja’s valuable lower-order contribution helped West snatch four valuable points.
Domestic heavyweights Ankeet Bawane, Sarfaraz Khan and Rahul Tripathi, the backbone of West’s batting, have been mercurial. While Sarfaraz has looked good in patches, Bawane and Tripathi have failed to spend time in the middle.
Captain Panchal, however, would be pleased with the team’s bowling performance. In all three games, more than five bowlers have added a wicket to their name, demonstrating the team’s wide range of options with the ball.
Contrastingly, things have been difficult for Nitish Rana’s side after losing two crucial encounters.
The team’s imbalance across departments has emerged as a reason for its letdown in the tournament.
While young seamers Mayank Yadav and Harshit Rana have shared the heavy load of the wicket-taking duties, the experienced duo of Sandeep Sharma and Mayank Markande have been out of touch.
Sandeep conceded 89 runs in his 10-over quota against East Zone, while Markande went for 73 in his eight. They have only accounted for four wickets together while leaking 294 runs in 49 overs at a concerning combined strike rate of 73.5.
North’s batting has also been inconsistent. It was bundled out for 60 by South in its campaign opener, the lowest total ever in the tournament, but bounced back with a 300-plus total against Central on the back of an attacking Prabhsimran Singh (121 off 107) hundred, before struggling against a potent East bowling attack during a 338-run chase.
West will look to overcome a middle-order conundrum and North will strive for consistency as the winner of this contest will take a significant step in the direction of next week’s final.
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