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|East has its role rapidly changing |
Saturday, March 6 2004 15:55 Hrs (IST)
After bowling out the hosts for a not so challenging 330, East made a harakiri of the reply as they reached 287 for eight by close of an excruciatingly long day's play.
Middle order batsman Kiran Powar was the lone recognised batsman remaining after playing an attacking innings of 69 with 44 more needed to cross the milestone. Debasish Mohanty was the other not out batsman, yet to open his score.
In the end, the ball might have prevailed over the bat, but paradoxically, the best performances of the day came from East Zone. Shib Shankar Paul claimed his sixth five-wicket haul of the season with 5-83 as North, resuming at 304 for seven, lost their last three wickets for 26 runs in less than 10 overs.
At the other end, Mohanty grabbed three for 52. Arindam Das then showed better application in countering the four-pronged pace attack of the North while compiling his 70 from 196-minute stay at the crease and hitting 11 boundaries.
Skipper Devang Gandhi was equally fluent in scoring a 79-ball 42 but the highlight of the day definitely was Kiran Powar's rearguard 69 and his 86-run partnership for the eighth wicket with veteran Utpal Chatterjee who contributed a vital 39 at the lower order.
Yet, despite all these efforts, the momentum was very much in favour of North. The home team needed an hour and a half after schedule close of play to complete their quota of overs for the day but it was a satisfying day at office for them.
Ashish Nehra (2-50) was a bit short of the right length to begin with but generated good pace and bounce. He had a shrewd captain in Dinesh Mongia who bowled him for 20 overs spread over four spell, and with each passing over the Delhi seamer looked like getting back to his best.
Joginder Sharma (2-59) was quicker in the air while Amit Bhandari did well to over come a horrific opening spell of three overs that cost 20 runs.
It was, however, a spinner who did the trick on a grassy pitch for the North. Sarandeep Singh made clever use of the cross-breeze to capture four for 53.
He bowled a containing line when Arindam Das and Gandhi were associated in a 93-run fourth wicket stand but began to flight a little more and turn a lot as he drove a wedge through the East batting. East then might have messed up in their game plan. They definitely did not get the right start when Shiv Sunder Das aggravated a calf-muscle tear.
The Orissa batsman was carrying the injury from the previous match against England 'A ' when he batted at number nine in the second innings.
Umpire Shivram, who had stood in that match, refused to give him a bye- runner that put a lot of pressure on the other opening batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni did well in the circumstances to keep the scoreboard ticking even as he played his shots without fear against a wayward Bhandari. But there was an element of arrogance in Singh's batting and he paid the price for it when he edged Joginder Sharma to Aakash Chopra at second slip.
Shivram then relaxed his stance to allow Dhoni run for Das but the contender for Test opener's spot showed a lapse in concentration in reaching for a slanting delivery from Nehra. Rohan Gavaskar, axed from the Indian One-day team, had more disappointment when he was adjudged leg-before for one but Gandhi and Arindam combine thereafter to lead the recovery.
The duo, however, did not let go the scoring opportunities and were severe on all the seamers. Das was lucky when, on 48, his catch to wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra off Sharma was called a no ball but the right-hander played an otherwise blemishless innings.
Gandhi, though, lost his sense in trying to hit out Sarandeep off the last over before lunch. He was given the benefit out of doubt on an appeal for LBW after a wild swipe, but the next ball he groped forward to give a bat-pad catch to Mithun Manhas at forward short-leg.
Left-handed Powar, elder brother of Mumbai off-spinner Ramesh Powar, did himself no harm in coming up with a squeaky clean knock in front of the national selectors.
Originally an Assam player, Powar had been the East's fulcrum in the Deodhar Trophy One-day tournament. He played another crucial knock for them with his innate sense of picking the right ball to hit, against both the spinner and seamers.
His innings was crucial in the extended final session as he, with good support from Chatterjee, steered East to relative safety.
The veteran's fall, after a 99-minute stay at the crease and with one over to go for the day, marked the end of an interesting day's play.
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