East Zone emerges unscathed

DEVOID of stars and not reputed to be a crack limited overs side, East Zone made its mark tellingly in the Prof. D.B. Deodhar Trophy cricket tournament, the symbol of supremacy, among zonal sides in the shorter version of the game, winning the title for the fourth time.

S. SABANAYAKAN

DEVOID of stars and not reputed to be a crack limited overs side, East Zone made its mark tellingly in the Prof. D.B. Deodhar Trophy cricket tournament, the symbol of supremacy, among zonal sides in the shorter version of the game, winning the title for the fourth time.

The East Zone team which won the Deodhar Trophy. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

Such was the domination of the traditional whipping boys of this tournament, that they won all the four matches outright, two with bonus points for a tally of 18 points, a clear nine points ahead of the second placed West Zone.

The men who made it possible were two unheralded players, Mahender Singh Dhoni of Bihar and Kiran Powar, a Mumbai import of Assam. The two not only batted consistently but also dominated superior bowling attacks.

The tournament, spread over five States, six venues and played over a fortnight did bring the best out of the top-notch second-string players in the domestic circuit. There were four centuries, some outstanding spin bowling and generally high level of competition brought the best out of the talent from the five zones. The tough travel schedule notwithstanding, the boys had enough time to practice at least on the eve of the games. There were some travel blues but then such problems were far less considering the distance the teams travelled.

Mahender Singh Dhoni was in fine touch and made a match-winning 114 for East Zone against Central Zone. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

East Zone's opening batsman, M.S. Dhoni's 114 versus Central was the best individual knock of the championship which also propelled the team to post the tournament's record total of 324 for four in 50 overs. This surpassed the previous best of 320 for four in 47.5 overs by West Zone against East at Rajkot in 1999-2000.

There were some fine bowling performances, especially the spinners, with Central's off-spinner Syed Abbas Ali, grandson of Syed Mushtaq Ali, coming up with his career-best haul of six for 25 against South in his team's opening match at Silchar. Then there was South's left-arm spinner Sreekumar Nair bagging five for 29, also his personal best in this meet, against East at Agartala. On the same day, Central's left-arm spinner Anup Dave picked up five for 33 versus North Zone at Cuttack.

Central Zone's Devendra Bundela is bowled by East Zone's Laxmi Ratan Shukla for 29 in the last league game. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

Sadagopan Ramesh's 97 set the tone of the tournament at Silchar as the defending champion South Zone picked up five points including a bonus against Central to take the lead as the host East Zone came up with a fine victory against the previous year's runner-up West Zone at Siliguri. Central, by conceding the bonus point went into arrears by minus 1 while West put in to bat on a heavy and damp pitch did well not to concede the bonus point.

South travelled to Jamshedpur to take on West at the Keenan Stadium. Facing certain elimination, West powered by the tournament's first hundred by skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar (103) got the better of South by two runs in a match played on a pitch that was slow and low in bounce where six South batsmen ran themselves out to give the victory on a platter to West.

The four points West gained gave the team a new lease of life and put South on the backfoot.

Jai Prakash Yadav was the only Central Zone batsman to show some patience and hang around. He top-scored with 50 against East Zone. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH.-

East taking on a star-studded North Zone at Paradip, jolted the visitors with an eight-wicket thrashing after Bengal medium-pacer Sanjib Sanyal ran through the top-order with four for 48. East's opening pair of Dhoni and Nikhil Haldipur, gave a flying start before skipper Devang Gandhi and Kiran Powar sent North on a leather hunt to close the game quickly winning by eight wickets. East picked up its second win and a bonus point pushing North to minus 1 for conceding the extra point.

East went into the lead with nine points followed by South on five and West on four. Both North and Central had minus 1 at the end of two sets of matches.

East moved to Agartala to play South, a game the latter needed to win. But it was not to be. The picturesque Maharaja Bir Bikram Stadium with its majestic new pavilion and newly constructed galleries wore an empty look as the local populace was celebrating the birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. East pulled off a sensational penultimate ball victory by one wicket to keep its slate clear. Ironically, a splendid 104 not out by South's Y. Venugopala Rao went in vain as the four points East gained helped it to jump into lead with 13. South remained on five with a game in hand.

Vinayak Mane came up with a terrific 102 for West against Central. -- Pic. V. GANESAN-

Meanwhile, Central came into its own against North at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack to win the game by 51 runs and a bonus point to boot. Central's tally stood at four after deducting the minus 1 it incurred against South in the opening game.

The fourth set of matches promised a clear passage for East at Jamshedpur against Central, as West returned to action after a week's gap, against North at Silchar. East did look rather guarded of Central, a dangerous side but prone to inconsistent performances.

East won the toss for the fourth successive time and batted first for the first time and posted 324 for four in 50 overs to end the game before lunch. Central was never in picture losing wickets regularly and the game by 142 runs to give East five points to take the trophy.

South's Venugopala Rao's unbeaten century went in vain against East. — Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

At Silchar, West thrashed a dispirited North by four wickets to pick five points to be in line for the runner-up spot. North conceded its third bonus point in as many games to be on minus 3.

The championship having decided, both West and South went out against Central and North at Agartala and Siliguri in the last set of games on January 31. South needed five points to pip West to the second spot. As luck would have it West lost to Central despite a terrific 102 by opener Vinayak Mane. But then South's inability to earn a bonus from its three-wicket victory over North at Siliguri meant it had to be content with the third place. Central ended fourth and North last.

The scores: Jan. 15: Siliguri

West Zone 226 for eight in 50 overs (Vinayak Mane 29, Hrishikesh Kanitkar 57, Nishit Shetty 37, Shiv Shankar Pal four for 36) lost to East Zone 227 for nine in 49.5 overs (M.S. Dhoni 25, Devang Gandhi 30, Kiran Powar 56, Laxmi Ratan Shukla 28, Munaf Patel three for 31).

Silchar

South Zone 217 in 49.5 overs (Sadagopan Ramesh 97, Y. Venugopala Rao 54, Syed Abbas Ali six for 25) beat Central Zone 155 in 42.2 overs (Gagan Khoda 25, Devendra Bundela 29, Anup Dave 36, Tinu Yohannan three for 41, Sreekumar Nair three for 12).

Jan.19: Jamshedpur

West Zone 247 for seven in 50 overs (V. Mane 27, H. Kanitkar 103, N. Shetty 47, R. Khirid 34, Dodda Ganesh four for 39) beat South Zone 245 in 50 overs (S. Ramesh 42, V. Sivaramakrishnan 47, Sridharan Sriram 54).

Paradip

North Zone 225 for seven in 50 overs (Dinesh Mongia 31, Mithun Manhas 72, Reetinder Singh Sodhi 68, Sanjib Sanyal four for 48) lost to East Zone 227 for two in 38 overs (Nikhil Haldipur 26, Mahender Singh Dhoni 40, D. Gandhi 75 not out, Kiran Powar 79 not out).

Jan. 23: Agartala

South Zone 240 for five in 50 overs (S. Ramesh 28, Y. Venugopala Rao 104 not out, Ajay Kudua 34) lost to East Zone 243 for nine in 49.5 overs (N. Haldipur 30, M.S. Dhoni 65, Kiran Powar 65, Sreekumar Nair five for 29).

Cuttack

Central Zone 250 in 50 overs (Tejinder Pal Singh 39, G. Khoda 76, Jai Prakash Yadav 62) beat North Zone 199 in 43.3 overs (Akash Chopra 50, M. Manhas 35, Ajay Jadeja 44, Anup Dave five for 33).

Jan. 27: Jamshedpur

East Zone 324 for four in 50 overs (N. Haldipur 52, M.S. Dhoni 114, D. Gandhi 31, K. Powar 35, L.R. Shukla 55) beat Central Zone 182 in 39.4 overs (J.P. Yadav 50, D. Bundela 29, S. Sanyal three for 34, Sourashish Lahiri three for 15).

Silchar

North Zone 160 for eight in 50 overs (M. Manhas 44, R.S. Sodhi 27, Ajay Ratra 36 not out, Sarandeep Singh 25 not out, Munaf Patel three for 23) lost to West Zone 161 for four in 37.5 overs (Satyajit Parab 38, V. Mane 29, Niraj Patel 33 not out, R. Khirid 30 not out).

Jan. 31: Agartala

West Zone 258 for six in 50 overs (S. Parab 40, V. Mane 102, N. Patel 28, R. Powar 27, Sumeet Mathur three for 62) lost to Central Zone 259 for seven in 49.2 overs (G. Khoda 45, J.P. Yadav 42, D. Bundela 73 not out)

Siliguri

North Zone 210 for seven in 50 overs (Ajay Jadeja 44 not out, R.S. Sodhi 53, T. Yohannan three for 37) lost to South Zone 211 for seven in 49.5 overs (M.S.K. Prasad 59, Y. Gnaneswar Rao 58 not out, Sarandeep Singh three for 40).

League Table

(Read under as Teams, Played, Won, Lost, Points, Bonus, Total points)

East Zone 4-4-0-16-2-18; West 4-2-2-8-1-9; South 4-2-2-8-1-9; Central 4-2-2-7-1-8; North 4-0-4-minus 3-0-minus 3.