Unbeaten on 65, Naman Ohja played a determined knock to beat East Zone by two wickets and take Central Zone in to the semi-final of the BCCI Prof D B Deodhar Trophy. Chasing 195, Central Zone lost wickets at regular intervals as East Zone put up a fight to defend the total.
However, Ojha’s timely knock helped his team advance to the next stage of the zonal one-day tournament.
While Goswami looked to hold the innings together, wickets continued to fall at regular intervals for the Laxmi Ratan Shukla-led side. Four overs later, Manoj Tiwary nicked a quicker one from Umesh Yadav to the wicketkeeper, and a bit later, Piyush Chawla accounted for Saurabh Tiwary.
The middle-order bat took the aerial route, but succeeded only in finding Jalaj Saxena at deep mid-wicket. Goswami’s resistance was broken when Saxena bowled him out, leaving his team on 102 for five. Kumar Deobrat joined his captain in the middle, but their partnership was ended by Karn Sharma, who removed Shukla.
With the team on 170 and 10 overs left in the innings captain, Chawla came back into the attack and claimed the remaining four wickets in four overs to wrap up the East Zone innings and finish with a five-wicker haul. Shahbaz Nadeem departed top-edging the leg-spinner to Shalabh Shrivastava. In his next over, Rahul Shukla walked back after edging the ball to the wicketkeeper. Ashoke Dinda was the next to depart, while Deobrat was caught by Chawla off his own bowling to end the EZ innings for 194 with 22 balls still remaining.
Opening the batting with Faiz Fazal, Saxena was the first to cut loose after a circumspect start. The experienced opener struck Abu Nechim Ahmed for two boundaries and hit Dinda for two more in the next. Fazal, however, departed for four by edging Abu Nechim to the wicketkeeper. Shrivastava, who replaced him, got off the mark with a well-placed boundary through the slip region. But in his next over, the pacer had the better off Saxena, who looked in sublime touch. With the team on 45 for two, Naman Ojha took guard opposite Shrivastava as CZ worked to overcome the target.
35 runs later, Shrivastava returned for 31, dismissed by Rahul Shukla. And in the next over, skipper Laxmi Shukla bowled Mahesh Rawat and Akshdeep Nath to reduce Central Zone to 81 for four to keep the match precariously poised. Chawla and Ojha then added 43, before Abu Nechim sent back the CZ captain for 24.
While Ojha continued to anchor the innings, Karn Sharma was sent back by Dinda for 22, who removed Anureet Singh for zero. With CZ still 23 runs short of the target, Ishwar Pandey joined Ojha in the middle. The middle-order batsman, who had gone past his half-century, needed support from the other end to take his team across the line. And with Pandey, he helped his team to the target with seven overs to spare.