If Yashasvi Jaiswal’s (265, 323b, 30x4, 4x6) double-hundred hadn’t already put the Duleep Trophy final beyond South Zone’s reach, Sarfaraz Khan (127 not out, 178b, 11x4, 2x6) and the West Zone bowlers ensured the fifth and final day would be little more than a formality.
Rohan Kunnummal (93, 100b, 14x4, 1x6) combined resilience with aggression – qualities his seniors in the team lacked – before he misread a Shams Mulani (two for 24) arm-ball that crashed into his off-stump to leave West Zone four wickets shy of the title.
R. Sai Kishore and T Ravi Teja saw off the fading light but, with 375 runs needed on the final day.
Chasing a mammoth 529, the South Zone batting line-up, studded with India internationals, failed to rise to the occasion on Saturday at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore. Mayank Agarwal hurriedly closed the face of the bat to a good-length ball and got a leading edge to short-cover, where Tanush Kotian took a brilliant catch diving forward, sending a painful reminder to his opponents of the chances they missed in the field.
Atit Sheth (two for 29) struck in the first over of his spell when Hanuma Vihari met a length delivery on the front-foot only to edge behind to the wicketkeeper. South Zone had pegged its hopes on first-innings centurion Baba Indrajith but met with disappointment when he drove a half-volley straight to point to give Sheth his second.
In an attempt to draw a similar error from opener Kunnummal, Ajinkya Rahane tempted the Kerala opener to drive by emptying the cover region. However, Sheth missed his lengths and Kunnummal made hay by pushing the ball off the backfoot in the gap and smashed the pacer for four boundaries in one over with this method.
ALSO READ: Duleep Trophy final HIGHLIGHTS, West Zone vs South Zone Day 4
Kunnummal and Manish Pandey resisted briefly with a brisk 44-run stand. However, the latter perished when Jaydev Unadkat (two for 26), returning for his second spell, angled one into his pads from around the stumps for his second wicket. South Zone lost half its side when Mulani drew Ricky Bhui’s outside edge, with Rahane diving low to his right at first slip to complete the dismissal.
Earlier, Jaiswal and Sarfaraz continued to pile agony on South Zone, adding 106 runs in 25 overs. The duo attacked the spinners early on and were hardly unsettled when the new-ball was taken three overs into the day. Jaiswal rode his luck to reach his 250 off 306 balls, smashing Kishore for a four down the ground to reach the mark in the midst of a battle with cramps.
He was given a reprieve on 251 when Bhui missed a stumping chance off Krishnappa Gowtham (two for 235), who was still recovering from the frustration of a dropped catch off his bowling earlier in the day when Jaiswal was on 225. When he eventually caught the left-hander out of his crease, with Bhui completing the stumping on this occasion to end Jaiswal’s 461-minute stay at the crease, Gowtham sat down in disbelief.
Sarfaraz, dropped on 62 by Tanay Thyagarajan while attempting the sweep, made most of his reprieve. He reverse-swept Gowtham to the square-leg boundary to reach a 90-ball fifty and took off after Lunch, hammering the first ball after the break for a six as the South Zone fielders dragged themselves onto the field for another session of toil.
With Het Patel racing to a 59-ball half-century prompting a declaration, after Sarfaraz struck a 158-ball hundred, South Zone’s agony on the field was cut short before its batters faced the heat.