Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumars gutsy century helped script an unbelievable comeback for his side Central Zone as they are 10 runs shy of taking an all-important lead against North Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final. After North scored a commendable 451,the Central Zone riding on Bhuvenshwars unbeaten 120 (12×4,3×6) are tantalisingly close at 442 for nine. In fact,the 10th wicket partnership between Bhuvneshwar and Rituraj Singh who is batting on 21 yielded an astonioshing 100 runs.
The fact that these runs came in less than 22 overs is also laudable. While this match will always be remembered for Yuvraj Singhs double hundred,Bhuvneshwars innings is no mean achievement considering he batted with the tail for the better part of his innings. A win will certainly make his maiden first-class ton even more memorable.
Starting the day at 146/5,skipper Mohammed Kaif who contributed 64 and glovesman Mahesh Rawat (71,131 balls,9×4) took the score to 219 before former India player was dismissed. Rawat was dismissed at the score of 251 while Praveen Kumar hit three sixes in his quickfire 27 before Amit Mishra dismissed him.
At 293 for eight,Murali Kartik (22) joined Bhuvneshwar as the pair added 49 runs for the ninth wicket to take the score to 342 before the former gave a catch to Yuvraj Singh at first slip to become Mishras fourth victim. With 110 runs still to get and a wicket in hand,it looked like a mere formality for North Zone to get a sizeable first innings lead but Bhuvneshwar and Rituraj defied all odds as they negotiated both pace and spin with aplomb.
Batting on 99,Bhuvneshwar refused three singles to shield Rituraj and was helped by the defensive field set up of North Zone,who towards the close of play had nine men manning the the boundary rope.
While Mishra bowled 39 overs for his four wickets,the fact that he had given away 151 runs will certainly pinch him. Another leggie Rahul Sharma was also rendered ineffective as he gave away 75 runs in his 26 wicketless overs. North Zone were also generous with the extras,bowling a total of 25 no-balls 15 of those came from Mishra alone.
Brief scores: North Zone 1st Innings: 451 vs Central Zone: 442/9 (Bhuvneshwar Kumar 120 batting,Mahesh Rawat 71,Mohammed Kaif 64,Amit Mishra 4/151).
South stage a comeback
Visakhapatnam: The other semifinal between defending champions East Zone and South Zone is interestingly poised with the former scoring 129 for six in their second innings to enjoy a slender 152-run lead at stumps on Day 3. The East bowlers,led by Iresh Saxena and Samar Quadri,bowled out South Zone for 244 in 82.4 overs in their first innings to eke out a narrow 23-run lead. However,the East batsmen failed to capitalise and lost six wickets for 129 runs at stumps at Dr. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy stadium.
Brief scores: East Zone: 267 all out and 129 for six (Natraj Behera 60; Stuart Binny 2/25) vs South Zone: 244 all out (R Vinay Kumar 61; Biplob Samantray 3/41)