Saurabh Kumar’s career-best First Class bowling figures (eight for 66) helped Central Zone hammer East Zone by 170 runs to book a semifinal spot in the Duleep Trophy 2023–24 edition on day four at the Alur (I) Cricket Ground on Saturday.
With Saurabh razing the East top-order to the ground last evening, it was only a formality of four wickets for Central on the final morning after setting up a 300-run target. Resuming from a precarious position at 69 for six, East batters Riyan Parag and Manisankar Murasingh could not hold together for long before Saurabh sprang back into action.
The Uttar Pradesh tweaker darted a ball into Parag’s pads in the fifth over of the morning, trapping him leg-before for his 20th First Class five-wicket haul. While Saurabh knocked off Shahbaz Nadeem’s middle-stump for his sixth wicket, number 10, Akash Deep, flickered with three sixes. The left-arm spinner returned to quicker deliveries and sealed the match with two consecutive wickets.
While Central missed a chance to grasp the game early by batting big in the first innings (182 all out) after winning the toss, it made up for it with its clinical bowling across both outings. “We couldn’t capitalise while batting first. The middle order will need to work on that. Credit goes to our bowlers for bringing us back into the game. The pitch demanded some grind from the batters on the last two days, but the conditions were good overall,” Central coach Nikhil Doru said after the quarterfinal win.
Meanwhile, the East batters lacked the composure and application to succeed. Effectively, the only two fifties in the match from Central openers Vivek Singh and Himanshu Mantri proved to be vital in the distinction between the teams.
Central will next meet defending champion West Zone at the same venue from Wednesday.
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