South Zone edge out North in intense finish, face West in repeat of 2022 final

Bengaluru, Jul 8 (PTI) Tamil Nadu’s R Sai Kishore came up with a splendid all-round show as South Zone trumped North Zone by two wickets on a rain-interrupted but thrilling last day of the Duleep Trophy semifinal here on Saturday.

In the final, South will take on defending champions West Zone in a repeat of the 2022 title clash.

Chasing 215 in overcast conditions, South Zone were in the driver’s seat with Mayank Agarwal (54; 57b) and skipper Hanuma Vihari’s (43; 42b) playing counterattacking knocks.

But the pace trio of Harshit Rana (3/84), Baltej Singh (2/47) and Vaibhav Arora (2/46) gave their side timely breakthroughs, while North skipper Jayant Yadav grabbed the prized scalp of Agarwal.

There were two rain interruptions, the longest was for about two hours just before the final session, when South required 32 runs with Ricky Bhui (34; 29b) and Tilak Varma (25; 19b) going great guns.

With five wickets intact, South had one foot in the final but they faced some anxious moments as they were aware that North would make the cut by virtue of their three-run first-innings lead, if there was no further play.

But play resumed and more drama followed when Rana and Baltej’s twin bursts pushed South in a precarious 213/8, after they lost four wickets for just 22 runs.

However, spin-bowling all-rounder Sai Kishore, who grabbed a tidy 3/28 to dismiss North for 211 in their second essay, played the finisher’s role with an unbeaten 15 that included two sixes under pressure.

Resuming the final day at 21 for no loss, South started on a brisk note with Agarwal racing to 24 off 19 balls.

Desperately looking to break the opening partnership, North skipper Yadav brought in Arora, and the change in bowling worked as he accounted for Sai Sudharsan (17) after a 44-run opening stand.

The dismissal stopped the run-flow as Agarwal slowed down with the strike-rate going below 100 for the first time in his innings.

Arora struck again when he trapped Samarth R for five to keep North Zone’s slender hopes alive.

But what followed was a counterattacking approach from skipper Vihari and Agarwal who added 59 runs in 40 deliveries.

Rain, then, added some drama to the run-chase.

With South at 68 for two and Agarwal on 35, rain interrupted for the first time ahead of the lunch break.

Drizzle continued as they took an early lunch break, with South still needing 147 runs.

Rain stopped and in post-lunch session, Vihari and Agarwal continued from where they left.

Just when it looked like Agarwal and Vihari were in firm control, Yadav dismissed the former immediately after he had completed his half-century.

In the space of 23 runs, South skipper Vihari also followed suit, failing to capitalise on his good start.

On a high after his maiden national call-up for the West Indies T20I series, Varma came in and took on the attack.

With dark clouds looming, Bhui and Varma’s aggressive intent was expected and the duo in no time reduced the target under 50.

Just before the tea break, there was another rain stoppage with South needing 32 runs to win.

Looking at the fickle weather, Rana employed some game-delaying tactics, even as South had the upper hand.

But Bhui and Varma departed in successive overs, without any addition to the total with South 24 runs shy of the target.

Rana induced an edge and Prabhsimran Singh did the rest behind the stumps.

The seventh wicket tumbled when Rana induced a nick from Washington Sundar. KV Sasikanth smashed Rana for a six before being dismissed by Baltej.

With North on a roll, Vijaykumar Vyshak offered some resistance and withstood three deliveries from Baltej before the 26-year-old Sai Kishore sealed the issue with a six off Yadav.

Brief scores: North Zone 198 and 211. South Zone 195 and 219/8; 82 overs (Mayank Agarwal 54, Hanuma Vihari 43, Ricky Bhui 34, Tilak Varma 25, R Sai Kishore 15 not out). South Zone won by by two wickets.

Source: PTI News


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