Central Zone ends star-studded North’s title hopes

David overcame Goliath as the low-profile Central Zone held its nerve to surprise star-studded North Zone to remain in contention for the title race.

A look at the team sheets may have billed Central Zone’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 championship tie against North Zone as a David versus Goliath contest. David overcame Goliath as the low-profile Central unit held its nerve to surprise the star-studded North outfit to remain in contention for the title race.

Scorecard

After scoring 167 for six, thanks to Mahesh Rawat’s fifty (57 not out off 40b, 6x4, 1x6) and his 80-run partnership for the fourth wicket with captain Naman Ojha (48, 34b, 6x4, 1x6), the Central bowling outfit restricted North to 163 for six, despite Yuvraj Singh’s late charge. It was the first of the six matches in the tournament so far that the side batting first at the Wankhede Stadium successfully defended the total.

Karn Sharma (three for 17), the leggie who is back in the IPL auction after three seasons with Sunrisers Hyderabad, did the star act. Till he was introduced into the attack, the seasoned opening combination of Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan had got North off to another flying start. However, Karn broke the back of the North team, seeing the back of both the openers and Harbhajan, who promoted himself to No. 3, in each of his first three overs. It took a diving, one-handed catch deep on the on-side by Sohraab Dhaliwal to start the procession. Rishabh Pant then started off the blocks in no time but was deceived in the flight by off-spinner Akshay Wakhare to be stumped by Ojha.

With the required-rate mounting, the onus was on Yuvraj to help North cross the line. He did keep them afloat before cutting loose with 52 required off the last three overs. The first three balls of the 18th over, bowled by left-arm pacer Aniket Choudhary, were whipped over deep square leg, for sixes. However, Choudhary had the last laugh as a short-ball later in the over saw Yuvraj top-edge it to the long-leg fielder. Manpreet Gony then tried his best but the target of 21 off the last over was too much to handle against an impressive Ankit Rajpoot.