Author : Nayyar Abdul Rasheed
Man of the match? Harbhajan Singh called correctly at the toss and won his team the semifinal (FILE PHOTO)
North Zone won the toss in the semifinal against East Zone on Monday in Kochi and qualified for the Duleep Trophy final after captain Harbhajan Singh correctly called “heads” at the coin toss.
In a bizarre situation, after the 5 days of play, including the reserve day, the teams weren’t able to finish the first innings, and after wet outfield resulted in no play being possible, the match was decided by the toss of a coin as per the rules.
Incidentally, Harbhajan won the toss on the first day too, when choosing to bat first, North registered a total of 591 for 8 before declaring. In their first innings, East Zone were 32 for 1 at the end of the third day. The fourth day saw persistent rain and play wasn’t possible, pushing the match into the final day.
Even on the final day yesterday, though the weather was better, the ground conditions were too wet to allow umpires to start the game. Thus, the umpires called Harbhajan and Shahbaz Nadeem, the East Zone and Jharkhand skipper, to the middle and explained them the rules where a coin toss was to decide the winner since the first innings lead couldn’t be established by either side.
It was a sad turn of events for captain Shahbaz Nadeem, who was hoping to avoid bad luck second time in the match, in what turned out to be the most important toss of his life so far.
“Today I was actually pretty confident since I had lost the toss before the match started. So I thought may be this one I would win,” Nadeem said.
Defending champions East Zone would be disappointed at having lost the match in such circumstances, especially after they had a full day on a good batting pitch in front of them, and a prospect of playing on the reserve day to complete the first innings ahead of North.
“It was a very flat wicket. We wanted to go and play because we had fielded for 195-odd overs, so we thought we would make them field for at least 150 overs. We have a very long batting line-up so we were confident if we had enough time. But we could not do anything much since the conditions were really wet.
“It was slightly disappointing since it was the semi-finals of the Duleep Trophy. Our team bats till No 9 including seven specialist batsmen and a couple of allrounders. Although we lost one wicket our batsmen have been in good form and we were confident. But what can we do? If it was decided by skills of players (then it would have been different) but if it is decided this way then what can we do,” Shahbaz lamented in the end.
The final between North Zone and South Zone is scheduled to start at the same venue, Nehru Stadium in Kochi on 17th October.
Before this, in 2004-05, the Ranji Trophy Plate Group semifinal between Services and Himachal Pradesh was decided by a coin toss, when captain Sarabjit Singh won them the game by calling correctly.