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|North Zone in sight of win against Central|
Tuesday, February 24 2004 14:37 Hrs (IST)
Test opener Aakash Chopra was batting on two with Gautam Gambhir yet to open his account.
That left the hosts needing another 115 runs to win with a full day's remaining to clinch a crucial win. Resuming at 22 for no loss, Central were soon in doldrums after losing half their side for 86.
Delhi pacer Amit Bhandari (3-56) and Haryana's Joginder Sharma (3-43) ransacked the Central top-order whose batsmen were found wanting in application on a pitch that was keeping low in bounce.
Vineet Saxena (51) and Naman Ojha (35) then gave some respectability to Central's total through a 61-run association for the sixth-wicket. But Vishal Bhatia gave North the vital breakthrough by having Ojha caught by Gambhir.
Earlier, Gagandeep Singh (3-19) struck in the very first over of the day, breaking through the defence of Test cricketer Sanjay Bangar (16).
Bhandari then combined with wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra to send back Central skipper Gagan Khoda (11) and Uttar Pradesh batsman Rohit Prakash (9) in the space of four overs. Sharma then struck his first blow when he bowled Devendra Bundela.
J P Yadav (20) had a reprieve when Ratra failed to hold on to a catch off Sarandeep Singh but the Railways all-rounder failed to make the most of it and was soon out leg-before to Sharma.
Saxena and Ojha defied the North bowlers for more than two hours when they faced 32 overs before Ojha fell to Bhatia. The end thereafter was predictable although it came at a melodramatic pace, as the last four wickets consumed another 30 overs.
Ratra, Manhas help North Zone gain lead