South Zone qualify for Duleep Trophy semis
South Zone booked a semi-final spot in the Duleep Trophy on the basis of a first innings lead after securing a draw in their quarter-final against West Zone at Chepauk on Sunday.
After electing to bat first, South Zone lost their top order in quick succession, giving the West Zone bowlers something to cheer about. However, middle-order batsmen Baba Aparajith (212) and Manish Pandey (213) stuck at the crease for long periods. At stumps, South Zone were 213/3 with Aparajith on 93* and Pandey on 81*.
The following day, both batsmen notched their respective hundreds and South Zone were soon inching towards a huge 1st innings total. The duo were involved in a 190-run 4th wicket stand. Pandey retired hurt on 104, but was back to the crease at 333/5 and added another 140 runs with Aparajith for the 6th wicket. The lower middle order then chipped in with some handy runs as South Zone declared on 600/9. Rakesh Dhurv was the pick of the bowlers with 3 wickets to his name. Jaydev Unadkat finished with figures of 1/91.
West Zone, in response, struggled to get going in their 1st innings. The middle-order batsmen fell like a pack of cards and West Zone ended Day 3 at 155/6. However, Bawne amd Dhurv’s 93-run 7th wicket partnership denied South Zone an outright victory. They were bowled out for 287 the next day, with Ankit Bawne staying unbeaten on 115 and both Aditya Waghmode and Dhurv scoring fifties. Spinner Malolan Rangarajan bagged his maiden first-class fifer, while Abhinav Mukund scalped 2 wickets.
With a massive lead of 313 runs, South Zone decided to bat again and declared at 44/1 on the final day, the match ending in a draw. As a result of this first-innings win, South Zone will now face Central Zone in the 2nd semi-final on October 10 at Chepauk.