East Zone has never won the Duleep Trophy. On Sunday, it made an inspired attempt to scale that height. Electing to bowl, it stifled Central Zone to a paltry 133 runs and then knocked off 88 of it, for the fall of three wickets, by close of play on the first day of the final, at the Holkar Stadium here.

Bright weather and a responsive pitch saw Shami Ahmed, Ashok Dinda and Basant Mohanty evoke respect from the Central batsmen. Shami's pace, Dinda's energy and Mohanty's perseverance proved a lethal combination. From a healthy 67 for two, Central suffered a nightmarish session and lost its last seven wickets for a mere 51 runs, with skipper Piyush Chawla contributing half of it.

Brilliant bowling

East Zone bowled brilliantly. But Central lacked the grit to counter the skills. The ball swung and seamed, with Central Zone having little clue. The pitch played true with a promising ‘carry' that demanded discipline and resilience, two factors missing in the Central ranks on this day. The in-form batsmen, opener Vineet Saxena and Robin Bist in the middle order, failed to make an impact, just as Mohammad Kaif, centurion in the previous match.

Kaif, circumspect as always, paid the price for ‘leaving' one ball too many. Saxena was foxed by one that darted in. Naman Ojha (44, 80b, 7x4) was caught exceptionally by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. For Bist, it was bad luck.

He flicked, but the bat broke at the point of impact and resulted in an easy offering at mid-wicket. Mohnish Mishra only flattered. When Parvinder Singh saw his stumps rattled, Central had messed it up.

Central counterattacks

The arrival of Chawla infused some life into the Central batting. He countered the East attack with some bold shots, including a straight six off Shami, but ran out of partners before becoming the last to fall. His 26, with three fours and a six, was a defiant show, but short-lived.

Shami was the pick of the bowlers. Even as Mohanty excelled in making the batsmen play, nagging them into submission, Shami attacked the stumps with a refreshingly positive attitude.

He refrained from digging it short like Dinda, who came back strongly in his second spell by wisely pitching the ball up.

Shami and Dinda formed an impressive pair. “We have variety even in our pace attack and that helped really,” said East coach Debasis Mohanty.

The East bowlers produced just the discipline the coach expected.

The scores:

Central Zone — 1st innings: Naman Ojha c Saha b Shami 44, Vineet Saxena b Shami 3, Mohammad Kaif lbw b Dinda 9, Mohnish Mishra c Saha b Mohanty 21, Robin Bist c Dinda b Shami 1, Parvinder Singh b Mohanty 8, Piyush Chawla c Shami b Dinda 26, Jalaj Saxena c Saha b Shami 4, Bhuvneshwar Kumar c Majumdar b Dinda 4, Rituraj Singh c Majumdar b Dinda 0, T. Sudhindra (not out) 4; Extras (b-1, lb-6, nb-2): 9; Total (in 49.3 overs): 133.

Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-23, 3-82, 4-86, 5-91, 6-101, 7-110, 8-122, 9-122.

East Zone bowling: Ashok Dinda 13.3-3-29-4, Basant Mohanty 17-10-22-2, Shami Ahmed 16-4-73-4, Bilap Samantray 3-1-2-0.

East Zone — 1st innings: Manish Vardhan b Sudhindra 4, Dheeraj Jadhav b Rituraj 11, Anustup Majumdar (batting) 46, Ishank Jaggi lbw b Sudhindra 9,Wriddhiman Saha (batting) 14; Extras (lb-3, nb-1): 4; Total (for three wkts. in 34 overs): 88.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-24, 3-48.

Central Zone bowling: Bhuvaneshwar Kumar 11-1-28-0, T. Sudhindra 11-4-25-2, Rituraj Singh 10-3-23-1.

Keywords: Duleep Trophy

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