Dharamsala: A match-winning six-for (6 for 49) by Parvinder Awana and a rollicking 83 off 70 by Yashpal Singh helped the North Zone beat the Central by 22 runs to book their place in the final of the Deodhar Trophy here on Sunday.
Chasing a daunting total of 290, Central sprung a surprise by sending Bhuvneshwar Kumar (51) to open the innings with Jalaj Saxena (20). The makeshift pair strung 48 before Parvinder Awana, the form Delhi bowler, struck early in his spell to send Saxena back. But Bhuvneshwar went about his business smoothly, scoring a fifty, along with his two wickets in the North's innings. Ashok Menaria replaced Bhuvneshwar when the Uttar Pradesh allrounder was snared by Bipul Sharma. Menaria, the left-handed batsman from Rajasthan, didn't waste much time, lofting the left-arm spin of Sharma over the mid-wicket region and placing a length delivery from Rajat Bhatia in the same region.
The wicket of Mohammad Kaif, who was batting sensibly for 60 till he pulled Awana to the square leg fielder, swung the match in North's favour. Needing another 114 runs in the last 15 overs, Central needed some quick runs in the mandatory powerplay. But North gave away only 25 in five overs and picked up the important wickets of Robin Bisht (11) and Menaria, who departed after making 51. The departure of Udit Birla (30) turned out to be the final nail in the coffin as Central could only manage 267/9 in their 50 overs.
Earlier, a power-packed knoock by Yashpal powered North to a challenging 289/8 after Central won the toss and elected to field. In his flawless innings, the Services' man smashed three towering sixes, one of which went out of the ground after bouncing once in the stands off Umesh Yadav. Three of his eight boundaries and two of his three maximums came in the 49th over bowled by Umesh, who went for 25 runs in the penultimate over of the innings.
Paras Dogra (71) and Mandeep Singh (53) rescued North's innings, which was in a spot after losing the wicket of openers Nitin Saini (0) and Shikhar Dhawan (7) at the score of 28 in 7th over. The two batsmen laid the foundation of the North's innings and got their fifties in the same over off Jalaj Saxena, who broke the 104-run partnership for the third wicket by taking the wicket Mandeep. The diminutive Punjab batsman hit five fours before being caught by wicketkeeper Urvesh Patel.
Dogra, when looking set, threw his wicket away. In an attempt to up the ante during the batting powerplay taken between 35-39 overs, the Himachal batsman pulled a Umesh delivery straight down the throat of Bisht at square leg. Yashpal, along with experienced Rajat Bhatia (40), did not allow the Central's bowlers to take an upper hand. The two veteran batsmen stiched 79 runs for the fifth wicket and gave the North's innings the much-needed momentum in the latter overs.
The North's bowlers were found wanting at death, leaking 94 runs in the last 10 overs. The last over by Shailendra Gehlot although yielded only three runs, and delivered three wickets, 38 runs were still scored off in the last three overs.
Central's skipper Piyush Chawla said losing wickets in a heap proved costly for the team. " It was a big target but a gettable one. We went for runs from the outset and thus lost too many wickets in the middle session. SOme of our shots took the edge instead of going from the middle of the bat.
Chawla also said the presence of Naman Ojha, their regular wicketkeeper and the top-order batsman, could have made a huge differnce. "Everyone knows what he (Naman) is capable of doing. He could have given us a quick start. But unfortunately he had a viral infection so left for home after reaching here this morning."
Player-of-the-Match Awana said he wanted to take the best out of the wicket. "The pitch offered bounce to all the pacers today. My aim was to hit the deck hard by bowling the three-fourth length. It paid off well for me today."
The North will play the West, who thrashed the East in the other semi-final in Mohali on Saturday, in the finale at the same venue on Monday.