Rohan Kunnummal saved his best for the big stage as he slammed a breathtaking 107 (75b, 11x4, 4x6) to help South Zone to the Deodhar Trophy title after beating East Zone by 45 runs in a high-scoring and thrilling final here at the Siechem Stadium on Thursday.
Electing to bat, Rohan and skipper Mayank Agarwal (64) stitched a 181-run opening wicket stand off just 152 balls to help set the platform for South to post a big score of 328 for eight.
In reply, East stuttered at the start and slumped to 13 for three, with V. Koushik taking two early wickets while Kaverappa took the other.
But just when it looked like South would run away with it, Riyan Parag (95, 65b, 8x4, 5x6) and Kumar Kushagra (68, 58b, 6x4, 3x6) turned things around - as they have done a few times in this tournament - with some sensational hitting in a 105-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Parag put on a masterclass of backfoot power hitting as he punished the South bowlers even if they were a touch short, repeatedly pulling pacers and spinners alike with disdain over the midwicket fence.
After a slow start at the other end, Kushagra joined the party, hitting Koushik for three boundaries with stylish pulls and cuts in one over. He then took on Washington Sundar (3/60), hitting him for three sixes over the leg side, the first of which got him to his half-century.
Fortunately for South, Washington had the last laugh, trapping Parag leg-before and then had Kushagra caught at wide long-on to help South Zone do the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy double.
In the afternoon, Rohan came with an uncluttered mind to take the attack to the opposition and kept lofting the East Zone pacers over the 30-yard circle.
After getting a reprieve on 41 when Parag dropped him off Akash Deep, the Kerala batter hit consecutive boundaries off the same bowler to bring up his half-century in just 33 balls.
He never let the intensity down and took on the spinners, stepping down to Shahbaz Ahmed and hitting him for consecutive sixes.
Rohan then got to his century in style, off just 69 balls, when he smashed Parag for a boundary through off-side and a six over long-on off successive deliveries.
Though East fought back in the middle overs with its spinners by drying up the runs, N. Jagadeesan’s (54) grinding half-century ensured South ended up with an above-par score, which proved enough.
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