Stand-in opener Virat Singh and captain Manoj Tiwary struck unbeaten half centuries and put on a rollicking century stand for the third wicket to enable East Zone trounce star-studded North Zone by eight wickets in the Mushtaq Ali T20 Inter-Zonal league match, in Mumbai, on Thursday.
The victory at the Wankhede Stadium was the third in a row for East who now just have to beat West in their last round robin game on February 18 morning to sew up the title.
The 19-year-old Virat slammed a superb, unbeaten 74 in 48 balls and put on 149 runs in just 87 balls with Tiwary, who cracked 75 not out in 43 balls, to guide East to 162 for 2 in 16.3 overs, chasing North’s 159 for 9.
Virat filled in for Jharkhand state-mate Ishan Kishan following the latter's release to play for India ‘A’ against the visiting Australian team in the warm-up game at the nearby Brabourne Stadium from Friday.
If East lose the game against the hosts and if Central Zone, their lone rival for the crown at the end of the penultimate day of the competition, beat South Zone on Saturday afternoon, there will be a tie on points (12 each) and the net run-rate will come into the picture to decide the winners.
After their third win today, East were sitting pretty on 12 points with a net run-rate of plus 1.185, while Central, who have 8 points to their credit after two wins and a loss, are second with a net run-rate of minus 0.064. The other three teams are out of the fray as far as the title is concerned.
West Zone 140 for 9 (D Hooda 32; C V Milind 3 for 41, M Ashwin 2 for 24, V Shankar 2 for 21) lost to South Zone 141 for 5 in 17.4 overs (V Vinod 36, M Agarwal 70).
North Zone 159 for 9 (Yuvraj Singh 38; P Ojha 3 for 33, A Verma 2 for 18) lost to East Zone 162 for 2 in 16.3 overs (Virat Singh not out 74, M Tiwary not out 75).