West Zone, led by Priyank Panchal, will look to bounce back from the narrow 12-run loss to South Zone when it faces a winless Central Zone in the Deodhar Trophy at the Siechem Stadium in Puducherry on Friday.
West Zone bundled out South Zone for 206 in the previous game after opting to bowl first. Parth Bhut was the standout bowler, picking up three wickets, including that of the opposition skipper Mayank Agarwal, who top-scored with 98.
West Zone lost three quick wickets in reply but a run-a-ball 42 from Sarfaraz Khan followed by a solid partnership between Atit Sheth and Shivam Dube put the team in a comfortable position. However, it lost the remaining wickets for 33 runs, falling agonisingly short of the target.
Central Zone, on the other hand, couldn’t get across the line in its chase of 308 against North Zone, handing it a second straight loss in the tournament. Top order batters Shivam Chaudhary, Yash Dubey and Upendra Yadav scored half-centuries but the middle order was dismissed cheaply, leading to a 48-run defeat.
Central Zone captain Venkatesh Iyer hasn’t been among the runs in this tournament and looked rusty during his brief stay at the crease against North Zone, which is a cause for concern. Opener Madhav Kaushik has also seen a lean run of form since his hundred for Uttar Pradesh against Nagaland in the Ranji Trophy in December 2022.
The lack of wickets for frontline pacers is another major issue for the Central Zone team. Vice-Captain Aniket Chaudhary has gone wicketless in both matches, while Shivam Mavi has picked up only one. With Mohsin Khan and Akash Madhwal waiting in the wings, Central Zone might be tempted to rejig the bowling attack.
West Zone will hope that the middle order fires and the experienced Maharashtra duo - Rahul Tripathi and Ankeet Bawne- can get some runs going into the business end of the tournament.
West Zone currently occupies third place on the points table with a better net run rate compared to North Zone, thanks to the nine-wicket win against North East Zone in the first game.
With only top two teams qualifying for the finals, it will hope to win the next two encounters before facing second-placed East Zone in the last match of the round-robin fixtures.
Central Zone enters the must-win game hoping to get off the mark in the tournament and stay in contention for a spot in the final.
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