His masterly knock of 121 sets up an 11-run win over East Zone

Baba Aparajith produced a masterly 121 to help South pip East by 11 runs in the quarterfinals of the Prof. D.B. Deodhar Trophy inter-zonal tournament at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday.

The six-time winner will now take on defending champion and 11-time winner West in the semifinals on Tuesday.

South, which opted to bat, posted a challenging total of 284 for five before restricting East to 273 for seven. The victory was a reward for South’s team effort as everyone chipped in with valuable contributions.

The target of 285 looked quite imposing for East when it lost opener Pallav Das for 16 in the sixth over. The other opener, Shib Shankar Roy, and No. 3 Ishank Jaggi added 56 for the second wicket before Aparajith caught Roy off his own bowling.

Jaggi, Saha shine

Jaggi was then involved in a 49-run association for the third wicket with skipper Wriddhiman Saha before getting run out to a direct throw from Sachin Baby. He made 55 (67b, 5x4, 1x6).

Saha kept East in the hunt, forging a 65-run partnership with Govind Podder for the fourth wicket.

He made his runs in quick time, smashing four fours and three sixes, before his dismissal for 77 off 72 balls swung things back in South’s favour.

East, however, refused to go down without a fight as Gokul Sharma (40, 35b, 4x4) and Abu Nechim Ahmed (26, 14b, 3x4, 1x6) took the fight to the opposition with an unbroken stand of 53 for the eighth wicket. South’s experienced bowlers Abhimanyu Mithun (three for 40) and R. Vinay Kumar bowledwell at the death to help their team squeeze through.

In the morning, Aparajith and Uthappa had a 95-run partnership for the second wicket in 22.5 overs before the latter limped out with an ankle injury. The former then teamed up with captain Dinesh Karthik to add another 59.

Mature knock

It was a mature effort from the 18-year-old Aparajith. He walked in when South was zero for one after losing K.L. Rahul off the first ball of the second over.

South scored just 17 in the first 10 overs as Mohammad Shami and Basant Mohanty proved difficult to get away. However, the next 10 yielded 60 with Uthappa and Aparajith breaking the shackles.

The latter hit South’s first boundary, a pull off Shami when the pacer dropped short. Aparajith also smashed the first six of the game, heaving Mohanty over the long-on fence. He followed it up with back-to-back sixes off Shabhaz Nadeem in the 45th over, the first a pull over mid-wicket and the second a classic inside-out cover drive. That over went for 18.

Aparajith’s footwork was assured and he depended on timing and placement while scoring his maiden limited-overs century. He was in total command, sending the ball to the boundary 10 times and thrice over it.

South’s innings was also bolstered by a late flurry from Sachin (33, 19b, 5x4) and Vinay (12, 5b, 1x4, 1x6), who added 27 off the final 13 deliveries.

The scores:

South: R. Uthappa (retd. hurt) 48, K.L. Rahul c Saha b Mohanty 0, B. Aparajith c Samantaray b Shami 121, D. Karthik (run out) 33, S. Binny c Podder b Nadeem 13, C.M. Gautam c Mohanty b Shami 17, S. Baby (not out) 33, R. Vinay Kumar (not out) 12; Extras (lb-5, w-2): 7; Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs): 284.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-154, 3-195, 4-236, 5-257.

East bowling: Shami 11-2-60-2, Mohanty 10-0-35-1, Abu Nechim 7-0-65-0, Samantaray 8-0-35-0, Nadeem 9-0-56-1, Gokul 5-0-28-0.

East: P. Das c Aparajith b Mithun 16, S. Roy c & b Aparajith 26, I. Jaggi (run out) 55, W. Saha c Vinay b Mithun 77, G. Podder (run out) 20, B. Samantaray c sub (Vihari) b Mithun 0, Gokul (not out) 40, Mohd. Shami c Baby b Sudhakar 6, Abu Nechim (not out) 26; Extras (lb-5, w-2): 7; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs): 273.

Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-77, 3-126, 4-191, 5-194, 6-201, 7-220.

South bowling: Vinay 12-1-58-0, Mithun 10-1-40-3, Warrier 7-0-42-0, Aparajith 6-0-26-1, Binny 3-0-16-0, Sudhakar 10-0-76-1, Baby 2-0-10-0.

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