North's Duleep Trophy

The event was ill-timed as most of the venues were in East India, which was experiencing the after-effects of the monsoon, writes S. Sabanayakan.

Organising a premier domestic tournament, such as the Duleep Trophy, in East India so early in the season will always pose problems. The monsoon, which stays active till early October, does not allow time to prepare pitches for a tournament of this stature. Precisely for this reason, some of the matches, including the final, did not have a real contest between bat and ball.

The triumph of North Zone, for the 16th time in this elite tournament, was because of its batsmen's ability to graft. The North skipper, Mithun Manhas, having won the toss, asked Sri Lanka `A' to bat first. His decision would have misfired, but the Sri Lankans were not willing to stay at the crease and wait for the bad ball.

But for Malinda Warnapura and Chamara Silva, Sri Lanka `A' could not have taken the game to the fifth day. North ran up a huge total of 636 for seven declared in reply to Sri Lanka `A's first innings total of 296. The fate of the match was decided by the end of the second day when North opener Aakash Chopra and Ravneet Ricky hit up centuries, By the end of the third day, North moved to 627 for seven for a huge first innings lead.

That Sri Lanka `A' replied strongly with 426 in the second innings, thanks to Warnapura's unbeaten 149, meant nothing for the visiting team, the first foreign squad to figure in the final of the Duleep Trophy.

Sri Lanka `A' qualified from Group A, which also had South and defending champion West. North moved up from Group B, which also had Central and East. The tournament threw up some new faces, while also providing a chance to some of the tried and tested. This tournament also helped Sri Lanka Cricket to test some of its talent before inducting a couple of players into the senior side.

West captain Wasim Jaffer celebrated his inclusion in the Indian ODI side with a fluent 129. Similarly, Dinesh Karthik, with a punishing 95, justified the faith the selectors reposed in him while picking him for the tour of South Africa. The Tamil Nadu gloveman also performed creditably behind the stumps. Robin Uthappa was another youngster to impress with the bat. The Karnataka opener raised his game a notch when it mattered and came up with some sterling scores. Yashpal Singh and Mahesh Rawat of North impressed, as did former India seamer, Joginder Sharma of Haryana. His back to back centuries against Central and East combined with his accurate medium-pace bowling should not have gone unnoticed.

Among the young hopefuls, three names come to mind immediately. Punjab off-spinner Rajesh Sharma, Tamil Nadu medium pacer Vijayakumar Yomahesh and Piyush Chawla of Central all did wonderfully well.

Sharma could be termed the find of the tournament. He bowled his off-breaks with great guile and control. He turned the `doosra' as much as his off-breaks, drawing praise from former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who after scoring a century off the North bowlers singled out this youngster for his talent.

Sri Lanka's new ball operator, Akalanka Ganegama, and middle-order batsman, Chamara Silva, made the most of the opportunities and grabbed spots in their country's senior team on the tour of New Zealand.

Malinda Warnapura, a nephew of former Sri Lanka star Bandula, was the most impressive with back to back centuries and two half centuries. Ishara Amarasinghe is another Sri Lankan pacer with tremendous potential.

THE SCORES Final

Kolkata: Sri Lanka `A' 296 (M. Warnapura 65, C. Silva 84, R. Sharma four for 85) and 426 (M. Warnapura 149 not out, R. Sharma five for 119) lost to North Zone 636 for seven decl. (A. Chopra 188, R. Ricky 122, M. Rawat 104 not out, I. Amarasinghe three for 124, R. Herath three for 201) and 87 for two (A. Chopra 51 not out) by eight wickets.

League, Group A

Kolkata: South Zone 266 (A. Yadav 133 not out, A. Ganegama four for 71) and 333 for four decl. (D. Karthik 95, R. Uthappa 141, Ganegama four for 82) lost to Sri Lanka `A' 327 (T. Samaraweera 69, C. Silva 70; P. K. Reddy four for 57, V. Yomahesh three for 74) and 273 for seven (M. Warnapura 111 not out, K. Silva 65, Yomahesh six for 71).

Cuttack: Sri Lanka `A' 325 (M. Udawatte 68, C. Silva 61; Z. Khan three for 76, S. Trivedi five for 79) & 290 for seven decl. (W. Warnapura 56, M. Vandort 54) beat West Zone 149 (A. Muzumdar 51, A. Ganegama four for 47, U. Chandana three for 23) and 271 (W. Jaffer 129, Ganegama three for 79, Chandana five for 65) by 195 runs.

Indore: South 291 (R. Uthappa 57, Y. V. Rao 69) and 307 (V. V. S. Laxman 50, S. Badrinath 65, A. T. Rayudu 50; S. Trivedi five for 57) beat West 180 (R. Jadeja 53, A. Kumble five for 42) and 168 for nine (Kumble three for 37) by 250 runs.

Group B

Guwahati: North Zone 504 (J. Sharma 122, G. Gambhir 86, Y. Singh 89, M. Rawat 62, S. Lahiri three for 152) and 65 for one. East Zone 295 (S. Ganguly 118, A. Nehra three for 80, R. Sharma three for 73).

Jamshedpur: North Zone 443 (G. Gambhir 70, Y. Singh 74, M. Rawat 115, J. Singh 103, P. Chawla three for 106, M. Kartik three for 103) and 149 (Gambhir 84, P. Kumar five for 42, P. Chawla four for 93) Central Zone 288 (N. Ojha 67; A. Nehra three for 60, R. Sharma three for 58) and 102 for four. North won on first innings lead.

Gwalior: East 245 (R. Gavaskar 106, J. P. Yadav five for 94) and 330 (R. Gavaskar 80, L. R. Shukla 76, P. Kumar four for 77, P. Chawla five for 62). Central 130 (A. Abbas Ali 57, A. Dinda six for 52) and 171 for seven (A. Abbas Ali 52, A. Dinda three for 48). East won on first innings lead.