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|Yuvraj's second ton puts North back in the hunt|
Saturday, March 6 2004 20:11 Hrs (IST)
After managing to squeeze out a slender eight-run first innings lead in the morning, North Zone reached a healthy 292 for three at close on third day, with Yuvraj (148) hitting another enterprising century.
It was the first instance of century in each innings in a first-class match for the Punjab batsman and with an overall lead of 284, the hosts now hold the whip in the match which had seen the momentum constantly swing from one end to the other.
Test opening batsman Aakash Chopra, whose 230-run stand with Yuvraj has set North on the victory path, missed his century when he skied an on drive and was caught on 95.
Skipper Dinesh Mongia was batting on 14 with Mithun Manhas on 11 at the other end at stumps.
Earlier, Kiran Powar took East close to North's first innings total but fell to an ambitious shot as East, resuming at 287 for eight, were all out for 322.
Powar went after offie Sarandeep Singh in trying to help his team get past the milestone but holed out to the fielder at deep mid-wicket.
His 102 off 161 balls and filled with 14 fours and a stunning six off Sarandeep was one of the finest counter attacking knock from a recognised batsman with the last batsman at the other end.
However, whether that one stroke spoiled East's chances of its first Duleep Trophy victory remains to be seen.
"I wanted to finish it off that over. There was number 11 batsman at the other end and a spinner was bowling, I was confident I could do it," Powar said after the innings.
That he only had the first innings lead in mind and did not look further was the difference between the two teams.
For, the early loss of Gautam Gambhir notwithstanding, North looked a team that had only a title win as their aim as they paced their second innings to perfection.
The loss of two wickets - including that of Yuvraj - in the closing stages might serve as a stern warning to Mongia's men who collapsed from a position of strength in the first essay.
Mongia admitted as much when he said, "we are thinking in terms of timing our declaration. Hopefully that is the case tomorrow (Sunday), and not the way things went in the first innings."
Another factor that might stand between North and the victory is that they have packed their side with four seamers while the pitch had began to offer turn.
Their lone specialist spinner Sarandeep claimed 5-64 in the first innings and will have to play a huge role if they were to register an outright win.
East gained an early breakthrough when Sourashish Lahiri bowled Gambhir (9) with only 30 on the board but Chopra and Yuvraj proved impregnable.
East has its role rapidly changing