East Zone are all but through to the finals of the Duleep Trophy as Ashok Dinda's fiery spell ensured an all-important first-innings lead of 28 runs against North Zone on the penultimate day, at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
The India hopeful had career-best figures of eight for 123 to show for his efforts as North were all out for 287 in reply to East's first-innings score of 315. At stumps, East Zone were 120 for one with their lead swelling to 148.
East Zone have never won the title and will be in the first final of the tournament since the 2005-06 season.
Unless Delhi lad Parvinder Awana can do something miraculous, the match as a contest is over, thanks to Dinda's lion-hearted effort on a not-so responsive pitch.
Having taken a couple of wickets on Sunday, Dinda's figures for the day were 19-2-61-6. Five of the six wickets on Monday were taken from the pavilion end as he bowled into the breeze. He also became the only bowler this season to complete 50 wickets. He now has 52 scalps and will get another match to improve upon his current tally.
He bowled fast and whenever he pitched the ball up, it looked as if something is going to happen. Just like Sunday, things took a different turn the moment the second new ball was taken in the 81st over.
North Zone were 210 for four after 80 overs then lost six wickets with an addition of 77 runs in 25 overs with Dinda taking five from the pavilion end.
Brief Scores: East Zone 315 & 120/1 (M Vardhan 59 batting, A Majumdar 39 batting) vs West Zone 287 (Mandeep Singh 55, Ashok Dinda 8/123, Basant Mohanty 2/46).
Central Zone bat out South in semifinal
Naman Ojha and Robin Bist scored a century each as the Central Zone virtually sealed a place in the Duleep Trophy final by taking a mammoth 488-run lead against South Zone with just one day to go in their semifinal.
Starting at a solid 127 for one, Central ended the day three at 378 for five in their second innings with Ojha and Bist scoring 104 runs each.
Even if Central declared their innings in the morning, it will be an impossible task for South to chase such a huge total with just 90 overs, 15 mandatory, at their disposal on the last day on Tuesday.
Ojha, who was 79 overnight, and Mohammed Kaif (43) started the proceedings for the visitors but the latter could add just two runs to his overnight total as he was scalped by Abhimanyu Mithun.
Ojha and Mohnish Mishra (33) added 44 runs for the third wicket before left-arm spinner KP Apanna broke the partnership by dismissing the opener.
Ojha's faced 149 balls and smashed 11 fours and five sixes in his innings.
Bist came to the crease and played a gem of a knock for his side. In between Central lost Parvinder Singh (17).
Bist, whose 104 came from 178 balls with 10 boundaries, and Bhuvneswar Kumar (59) played till the last ball of the day and added 160 runs for the sixth wicket.
Kumar's 59 came off 162 balls with the help of seven shots to the fence.