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|NZ start favourites in Duleep Trophy finals|
Wednesday, March 3 2004 18:47 Hrs (IST)
North Zone start favourites against East but the focus will be on India players Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra who have been asked to prove their complete recovery from injuries in what could be termed a 'live' fitness test.
Both the players have been named in the One-day squad but Yuvraj had cited a sore shoulder for skipping the league stage while Nehra has not bowled a ball since returning from Australia.
It will be an opportunity for the other players as well to stake their claims. The fact that West Zone's off-spinning all-rounder Ramesh Powar has been rewarded for his consistent performance in the domestic cricket with a place in the One-day squad should drive them to give their best.
This and the fact that the venue is an international class Test centre should buck the trend of poor cricket that the competition has dished out so far.
The scorelines of the matches leading up to the final tell the story themselves. In the opening round at Gurgaon, Central and West failed to complete the first innings after four days of toil. At Dharamshala in the final round, West floundered in its chase of a modest target of 199 on the fourth day against North.
The record breaking run chase by South Zone, who overhauled a fourth innings target of 501 set by England 'A' alone shines as a diamond among the garbage heap.
The pitches had been to blame for the most part, although it does not explain the ordinary batting performances. Any way, one can expect the Mohali Test venue to produce a good game of cricket.
North are on a high after notching up two wins from as many matches on their road to final. Their bowling has been the strongest in the tournament, their claiming 20 wickets in both the matches being ample proof.
Amit Bhandari is head and shoulders above the pack with a tally of 11 wickets. Playing in the tri-series, Down-Under must have done his confidence a world of good.
Bhandari has been well supported by Gagandeep, Joginder Sharma and Sarandeep Singh but the batting failures must be of some concern.
So far, North have failed to cross the 300-mark after posting totals of 249, 279 and 191. The team chased the modest target of 118 against Central without much ado, though.
Sarandeep propels North to dramatic win