West Zone, South Zone make it to Duleep Trophy final

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Cheteshwar Pujara scored a big second-innings century for West Zone.
Cheteshwar Pujara scored a big second-innings century for West Zone. © Getty

South Zone vs North Zone

South Zone set up a repeat of last year's final against West Zone in the Duleep Trophy after clinching a pulsating two-wicket win over North on another rain-hit day at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Set to chase 215 for victory, South sneaked home even as Jayant Yadav's North side stayed in the game and attempted to invoke a bad light or a rain scenario which could have forced a draw and taken them to the final on the basis of their three-run first-innings lead.

While the pitch definitely eased up for batting on the fourth day, the big challenge for South was to get the remaining 194 runs as soon as possible with dark clouds persistently hovering over the ground. They'd foreseen getting about 45-50 overs of play to get these runs and eventually got there inside 37 overs even as their opposition used delaying tactics as the game headed to a tense final hour after a total of 187 minutes of play (39 overs) were lost due to rain.

South were well served by their senior pros setting up the chase for them. Mayank Agarwal (54 off 57) set the tone with his second half-century of this low-scoring game while captain Hanuma Vihari added a quickfire 43 off 42. South lost Agarwal and Sai Sudarshan to contentious umpiring decisions while Vihari fell to a well-executed short-ball ploy. Ricky Bhui and Tilak Varma kept finding the boundaries but just when it seemed the pair would see the chase home, the heavens opened up for the 17th interruption of this match with South needing another 32 runs for victory.

When play resumed eventually at 3.50 PM under leaden skies, Jayant had his team resort to shrewd gamesmanship. This included bowling wide yorkers with five fielders on the off-side, moving fielders from one end of the field to the opposite of successive deliveries, having substitutes run onto the field and taking, on one occasion, as many as 9 minutes and 43 seconds to complete an over. In fact, the last 5.5 overs of the game took 53 minutes to be bowled. In Jayant's defence, his opposite number Vihari was okay with the tactic and admitted after the game that he would have done just the same had the boot been on the other foot.

It set up a febrile atmosphere around the ground with a sparsely populated crowd, rooting for South, voicing its displeasure at the unnecessary delays. But the drama of the game had even India stars Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, training at the nearby NCA, glued into the action.

The pressure got to South and both Bhui and Varma departed looking for big shots. R. Sai Kishore hit a six off Baltej Singh and appeared to have decisively swung the match in towards his side but Harshit Rana hit back from the other end to dismiss Washington Sundar and celebrated in the departing batter's face. South Zone were stil 14 runs away and down to the final three wickets with bad light and rain making the draw a probability.

No.9 KV Sasikant hit perhaps the most significant shot of the innings when he pulled a six off Rana before falling to Baltej with two to win. It came down to Sai Kishore having to take on the straight fielders in the deep against the off-spin of Jayant and he swung cleanly across the line for a six over cow corner. It was a fitting finish for it was under similar circumstances in the first innings - while looking for a big hit that would have given South the crucial lead - Sai Kishore had been stumped. There was to be no encore for Jayant this time around as Sai had the final say - a guttural roar in fact - in this highly competitive and charged-up fixture.

Brief scores: North Zone 198 (Prabhsimran Singh 49; Vidwath Kaverappa 5-28) & 211 (Prabhsimran Singh 63, Vijaykumar Vyshak 5-76) lost to South Zone 195 (Mayank Agarwal 76; Vaibhav Arora 3-57) & 219/8 (Mayank Agarwal 54, Hanuma Vihari 43; Harshit Rana 3-84) by two wickets

West Zone vs Central Zone

West Zone qualified for the final of Duleep Trophy 2023 on the basis of the first innings lead against Central Zone in Alur. The final day's play, on Saturday, was called off at Tea due to wet outfield, with Central Zone reduced to 128 for 4 in pursuit of the 390-run target.

Earlier in the day, West Zone managed to add only five runs to their overnight total before losing their last wicket Yuvrajsinh Dodiya, handing Saransh Jain his fourth scalp of the innings.

Central Zone were rocked early in the chase by Arzan Nagaswalla and Atit Sheth dismissing the openers cheaply after a slow start. Amandeep Khare attempted to steady the innings in the company of Dhruv Jurel and Rinku Singh, but the scoring rate was too slow to keep up with the target. Rinku smashed three boundaries and three sixes en route his breezy 30-ball 40 but it wasn't enough to threaten West.

Brief Scores: West Zone 220 (Atit Sheth 74, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja 39; Shivam Mavi 6-44) & 297 (Suryakumar Yadav 52, Cheteshwar Pujara 133; Saurabh Kumar 4-79, Saransh Jain 4-56) drew with Central Zone 128 (Rinku Singh 48, Dhruv Jurel 46; Arzan Nagaswalla 5-74, Atit Sheth 3-27) & 128/4 (Rinku Singh 40; Yuvrajsinh Dodiya 1-16)




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