The two add 129 runs in their undefeated third-wicket partnership
Yuvraj Singh was in full flow on Monday, dispatching the Central Zone bowlers to all corners of the Nehru Stadium to guide North Zone to an eight-wicket win in the semifinals of the Airtel Prof. D.B. Deodhar Trophy inter-zonal limited-overs tournament here.
His belligerent unbeaten 77 and Unmukt Chand’s polished knock (56 not out) ensured North reached Central’s revised target of 160 with 3.1 overs to spare. In Wednesday’s final, thirteen-time champion North will play the winner of the match between South and West.
The day’s play was delayed by an hour in the morning owing to a sharp shower for 15 minutes and the contest was reduced to 45-overs-a-side. Put in, Central managed only 190 in 41.5 overs.
North was quickly reduced to 42 for two in 10 overs when a short spell of drizzle took away another hour of playing time and the target was revised to 160 off 33 overs using the VJD method.
Central’s opening bowler Praveen Kumar, coming out of a BCCI suspension, bowled a good line and length to dismiss opener Chandan Madan (6) and North Zone skipper Gautam Gambhir (9) in the third and seventh overs respectively.
After that it was Yuvraj show all the way. It was a treat to watch him play as the left-hander came up with some classic shots as the Central bowlers were smashed all around the park.
Yuvraj started with a back-foot drive off Sreekant Wagh through the covers and in the next over he hoisted the lone specialist spinner Piyush Chawla for a six over mid-wicket.
Two overs later, Yuvraj was at his punishing best, hitting Wagh for four consecutive boundaries; the second and third deliveries were pulled to mid-wicket with contempt, the fourth ball was hit past mid-off and the fifth was driven through the covers.
His junior partner, Unmukt, dropped by Suresh Raina at point playing an uppish square-cut off Imtiaz Ahmed, was just delighted to watch the onslaught from the other end.
Yuvraj then turned his attention on Raina who came on to bowl his part-time off-breaks. He hoisted him for a six and then smashed another four through the off-side. Unmukt too got into the act with a couple of big hits. With the two going for their shots and putting on 129 runs in their unbroken third wicket partnership, the victory came rather quickly.
Earlier, the Central top order failed to fire as four of its batsmen did not capitalise on their good starts.
After Central lost its first wicket early, Naman Ojha and Raina came together. Raina showed early aggression as he hoisted Parvinder Awana for a straight six. Just when Raina (33, 42b, 2x4, 1x6) looked to be dominating, the left-hander played an ambitious lofted drive off Manpreet Grewal and holed out to Parveez Rasool at mid-off. Ojha was the next to go, leg-before to Amit Mishra, the day’s best bowler.
Left-handed Ashok Menaria (34, 39b, 4x4) and Mohammad Kaif (24, 34b, 2x4) flattered to deceive, both falling to off-break bowler Rajat Paliwal.
The scores: Central: N. Ojha lbw b Mishra 31, A. Paunikar c Paliwal b Awana 0, S. Raina c Rasool b Grewal 33, A. Menaria c & b Paliwal 34, M. Kaif c Mandeep b Paliwal 24, A. Nath c Unmukt b Mishra 14, P. Chawla b Rasool 24, Praveen c & b Mishra 0, S. Wagh (run out) 9, I. Pandey (not out) 6, I. Ahmed c Yuvraj b Kaul 1; Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1, w-8): 14; Total (in 41.5 overs): 190.
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-67, 3-79, 4-128, 5-131, 6-168, 7-169, 8-179, 9-186.
North bowling: Kaul 7.5-1-34-1, Awana 5-1-14-1, Grewal 7-0-31-1, Mishra 10-0-50-3, Rasool 9-1-42-1, Paliwal 3-1-14-2.
North: Unmukt Chand (not out) 56, C. Madan c Ojha b Praveen 6, G. Gambhir c Kaif b Praveen 9, Yuvraj (not out) 77; Extras (b-4, lb-3, w-5): 12; Total (for two in 29.5 overs): 160.
Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-31.
Central bowling: Praveen 7-1-28-2, Ahmed 3.5-0-12-0, Pandey 5-0-23-0, Wagh 4-0-27-0, Chawla 4-0-37-0, Raina 4-1-20-0, Menaria 2-0-6-0.