Naman Ojha-led Central Zone opened their account in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Inter-zonal T20 with a six-wicket win against Parthiv Patel-led West Zone in the first game of the tournament. While Deepak Hooda impressed with a gutsy 26-ball 49 to help WZ post a respectable 160 after being reduced to 61 for five; Harpreet Singh Bhatia took Central to victory with a sparkling 62 off 42 balls.
Put in to bat, Parthiv was the first to return to the pavilion with the team on 25 with miscued hit and Priyank Panchal followed him back in the next to leave the team on 38 for two. Kedar Jadhav, who then joined Shreyas Iyer added eight before he was sent back by Sohraab Dhaliwal. And the local Mumbai lad followed him back two balls later with the team on 48 for four. Irfan Pathan, who had come to the crease at No 5, was the next to return to the pavilion; backing up too far at the non-striker’s end he was run out for 4.
However, all hadn’t started well for the all-rounder either. Looking to take on the bowling, Hooda survived while on three as Apoorva Wankhede couldn’t hold on to what could have been a superb catch at midwicket. The batsman then played determinedly along with his senior partner to rebuild the innings. With five overs left the duo looked to accelerate and Tare set the tone with a six over backward point, where he also found the boundary to keep the scoreboard moving. However, later in the over, he departed hitting Aniket Choudhary to long on.
With his task cut out, Hooda continued to milk the bowlers even as he continued lose partners. In the next over, Abhishek Nayar found Harpreet Singh Bhatia in the covers and returned for two. Shardul Thakur, who then joined him dismissed Rajpoot for a straight six before returning for nine. A brilliant catch by Karn running to the covers left West Zone on 151 for eight with six balls left in the innings. In the last over Hooda added nine runs to the tally to take the side to a respectable score.
Defending the total, Ishwar Chaudhary castled Mahipal Lomror to give West Zone their first breakthrough. 10 runs later skipper Naman Ojha’s mistimed hit was caught by Iyer at covers. Harpreet, then joined Ambati Rayudu in the middle ensured Central Zone a comprehensive win. He was involved in a 35-run stand for the third wicket until the No 3 bat was foxed by Pravin Tambe and found his bails dislodged by Parthiv behind the stumps.
Running hard between the wickets he kept the scoreboard moving at a steady pace. The middle-order bat took the attack to the WZ bowlers as he launched them over the ropes to take the team within sniffing distance of the target. He was ably complemented by Mahesh Rawat in the pursuit. However, with three runs required to win he was sent back by Irfan Pathan for 62. Dhaliwal then joined Rawat in taking CZ to victory with 10 balls to spare.