Captain Manoj Tiwary and Virat Singh led East Zone to their third successive win of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Iner-zonal T20 with an eight-wicket win against North Zone. The comprehensive win has helped the team sit comfortably at the top of the table and brought them closer to the trophy. Their only competitors for the title are Central Zone.
Chasing a modest 160-run target, Manoj played a captain’s knock to ensure the team a solid net run rate. Joining Virat at 13 for two, he helped build the innings and the pair put together an unbroken 149-run stand to attain the target.
Virat, who had got an opportunity to display his skill in the absence of Ishan Kishan slammed Umar Nazir for three boundaries in the fourth over – over long on, third man and cut to the fence to take the attack to the opposition. The opener slammed nine fours and two sixes during his 48-ball 74. “I was waiting for the opportunity and I am happy that I contributed in a win. I am more happy that I finished the game for the team. Manoj has the experience and he helped me. He told me to back myself and play with positive intent. It was a decent target and we went for it.”
While Virat took on the bowlers, Manoj paced his innings and shaped the victory with a 43-ball 75 not out. He built the momentum steadily as he ensured that his team maintained the upper-hand. Reflecting on his knock he said, “Yes the effort was towards playing a good innings because I hadn’t had the opportunity to play a long innings in the last two games. The situations were such where I had to play the captain’s knock to take the team through so I was playing that way. Today I got the platform and the situation where I had to lead the team from the front. Our efforts were to keep the intent positive. Since I had gone in to bat inside the first six overs I knew that if I time the ball well it would go in the gaps and the boundaries will come, which is what happened.”
Lauding the youngster’s effort, the skipper added, “Along with me Virat played a very good innings and eased the pressure off me. He hit Nazir for three-four boundaries in an over and that put them under pressure more. We knew that once they lose the momentum they won’t be able to come back and making most of the situation we continued to bat and built the partnership.”
Manoj also slammed five sixes. He had lofted his opposite number Harbhajan Singh over deep mid-wicket and in the next two overs, he hit Manan Sharma and Parvez Rasool for sixes. “Once the match was in hand our focus was to win with as many wickets in hand as possible because you never know what would happen next game.”
The duo then took the team to the finish line with ease.
Earlier too after winning the toss the captain took a calculated decision to field first against a solid North Zone line-up and in the absence of his two key bowlers – Ashoke Dinda and Shahbaz Nadeem. “We know the stats support chasing and the coach also convinced and also a couple of other players. We backed the boys to chase,” Manoj explained.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan departed edging Pritam Das to the wicketkeeper and Gautam Gambhir departed miscuing Sayan Ghosh to mid-off leaving the team on 47 for two. 38 runs later, Unmukt Chand too returned to the pavilion for 20. With the top three gone after contributing 20 runs each. Yuvraj Singh, however was on song as he clobbered the attack but having taken the team past the three-figure mark and edged Amit Verma to the wicket-keeper