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North registers big win

By Our Special Correspondent

WINNING COMBINATION: Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, who put the West attack to the sword.

LUCKNOW, FEB. 17. Propelled by Yuvraj Singh's clinical century, North Zone made a mockery of the target and achieved an authoritative nine-wicket triumph against West Zone at the K.D. Singh `Babu' Stadium here on Thursday.

Yuvraj's partner in this thumping assault was Gautam Gambhir. And it was a fitting finish to the efforts of leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who collected five wickets in the morning.

The `devil' in the pitch was exorcised by some skilful show by the two left-handers as West ran out of ideas and surrendered in the afternoon. The key lay in the footwork Yuvraj and Gambhir demonstrated, leaving the West bowlers frustrated. The latter also showed poor cricketing acumen in adopting defensive tactics right from the beginning. In comparison, North, in a positive move, gained a lot by promoting Yuvraj to the No. 3 position.

The target of 207 proved woefully inadequate for West to defend as Gambhir and Yuvraj repeatedly left the crease to meet the spinners with immense confidence. After Virender Sehwag fell to a reckless attempt to clear the fence, it was the Gambhir-Yuvraj partnership that changed the course of the contest

Robust shots

Yuvraj, having thrown his wicket away in the first innings, was at his best this afternoon, playing some robust shots to delight the spectators with an innings that justified his reputation as a hard-hitting stroke-player. Two straight-driven boundaries off Zaheer Khan showed him in great nick and one powerful sweep against off-spinner Ramesh Powar stood out for its impeccable execution. With Yuvraj playing all his shots, the West attack was left in a shambles. His knock off 114 balls contained 16 fours.

Yuvraj had the right partner in Gambhir. The Delhi opener badly needed an innings of substance to boost his confidence and the flourish he displayed during his delightful performance should go a long way in helping him prepare for the series against Pakistan. Gambhir did well to stick to his natural game without ever showing indiscretion. His 121-ball innings was studded with nine fours.

When West resumed, Mishra played havoc with his craft. He kept the batsmen guessing with his nagging line and length that hardly left much room for the opposition.

Mishra attacked the batsmen with a bagful of variety, including the top-spinner, which had always been his potent weapon.

West fails again

West had a tough task on hand when it resumed at 146 for five with much depending upon the batting potential of the Powar brothers — Kiran and Ramesh. Two sensationally cover-driven boundaries by Kiran off Ashish Nehra raised hopes of a fight but then the wickets fell in a heap as West failed to apply itself for the second time in the match.

Rajesh Pawar, 15 overnight, chose the cavalier course and hit a couple of robust shots. But his adventurism did not carry him far and soon he perished. West opted to follow the trend set by Rajesh Pawar but it proved unwise.

Ramesh Powar batted with pre-determined aggression but failed to read the change of pace and holed out to Mishra at mid-off. Zaheer Khan was made to look like a novice as he shaped to defend and Mishra slid the ball past his bat. Zaheer was obviously embarrassed by the manner in which he had squared up.

The scores:

West Zone — 1st innings: 201.

North Zone — 1st innings: 196.

West Zone — 2nd innings: S. Parab lbw b Mongia 14, W. Jaffer c Chopra b Gagandeep 47, D. Jadhav lbw b Mishra 31, Niraj Patel c Nehra b Bhatia 17, K. Powar lbw b Mishra 37, Parthiv c Yuvraj b Bhatia 1, Rajesh Pawar c Gambhir b Mishra 39, Ramesh Powar c Mishra b Nehra 1, Zaheer b Mishra 0, Rakesh Patel c Bisla b Mishra 10, S. Trivedi (not out) 0; Extras (lb-1, nb-3) 4. Total (all out, in 63.1 overs) 201.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-78, 3-96, 4-120, 5-122, 6-185, 7-187, 8-189, 9-198.

North Zone bowling: Nehra 15-1-58-1, Gagandeep 8-3-17-1, V. Bhatia 10-1-44-2, D. Mongia 4-2-9-1, A. Mishra 20.1-2-52-5, Sehwag 6-0-20-0.

North Zone — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir (not out) 79, Sehwag c Zaheer b Pawar 15, Yuvraj (not out) 100; Extras (b-5, lb-5, nb-3, w-1) 14. Total (for one wicket, in 43.3 overs) 208.

Fall of wicket: 1-38.

West Zone bowling: Zaheer 9-1-32-0, S. Trivedi 2-0-14-0, Rajesh Pawar 13-1-54-1, Ramesh Powar 14-1-60-0, R. Patel 4-0-22-0, S. Parab 1.3-0-16-0.

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