If West Zone won the Deodhar Trophy final by a whopping 113 runs — far more easily than anyone could imagine — it was possible only with ample help from a circumspect North Zone.
North's defensive mindset was on full view when skipper Harbhajan Singh invited West to bat on a placid track.
North's decision to field, a day after beating Central by defending 289, reflected its uncertainty once Sunday's hero Parvinder Awana was ruled out due to injury.
“We wanted to make the most of the dampness of the pitch but we did not bowl well,” was how North's coach Sanjeev Sharma reacted after the match.
The North think-tank obviously did not spare much thought for the fact that its bowlers would be bowling up to 100 overs in the span of less than a day. On a good pitch that offered consistent bounce, and where the margin for error for the bowlers was very thin, West had no trouble in putting the tired-looking North attack to the sword.
By the time West was done with its batting, the scoreboard read 355 for four, built on an explosive 78 (63 balls, 14x4) by skipper Parthiv Patel.
“There was no dampness in the pitch. In these conditions, I would have batted first,” said Parthiv whose attacking batsmanship set the tone for a big total.
A focused Ajinkya Rahane's calculated assault fetched 118 (122 balls, 1x6, 15x4), an otherwise sedate Cheteshwar Pujara made merry with 71 (67 balls, 8x4) before an in-form Kedar Jadhav made the most of the end-overs with an unbeaten 67 (43balls, 3x6, 7x4). In fact, Jadhav hit two 6s off Manpreet Gony to third-man in the 49th over that fetched 21 runs!
When North came out to chase the mammoth target, Munaf Patel ended all prospects of a close match. Patel sent back Shikhar Dhawan, fellow-opener Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra and Yashpal Singh and left North reeling at 25 for four in 8.5 overs.
Thereafter, left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla also picked up four wickets when the late order batsmen used the long handle.
After Mandeep Singh missed his half-century, his Punjab teammates Bipul Sharma (68, 54 balls, 4x6, 7x4) and Harbhajan Singh (30, 29 balls, 2x6, 3x4) brought down the margin of defeat following their 97-run seventh-wicket stand that came off 78 deliveries.
Gony threw his bat at everything in an 11-ball 28 (3x6, 2x4) before the innings ended in the 43rd over.
West Zone: Parthiv Patel lbw b Harbhajan Singh 78, Ajinkya Rahane c Dhawan b Bipul Sharma 118, Cheteshwar Pujara c Dhawan b Sangwan 71, Kedar Jadhav (not out) 67, Suryakumar Yadav c Bhatia b Sangwan 9, Extras (lb-6, w-6) 12; Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs): 355.
Fall of wickets: 1-131, 2-247, 3-318, 4-355.
North bowling: Manpreet Gony 10-0-80-0, Rishi Dhawan 6-0-54-0, P. Sangwan 8-0-63-2, Bipul Sharma 10-0-49-1, Harbhajan Singh 10-1-56-1, Rajat Bhatia 6-0-47-0.
North Zone: Nitin Saini c Unadkat b Munaf 2, Shikhar Dhawan b Munaf 0, Mandeep Singh lbw b Abdulla 46, Paras Dogra c Rahane b Munaf 11, Yashpal Singh c Pujara b Munaf 0, Rajat Bhatia c Unadkat b Abdulla 28, Bipul Sharma c Vohara b Abdulla 68, Harbhajan Singh c Kedar Jadhav b Abdullah 30, Rishi Dhawan (not out) 25, Manpreet Gony c Unadkat b Darekar 28, Pradeep Sangwan st. Parthiv Patel b Darekar 0, Extras (lb-2, nb-1, w-1): 4, Total (in 42.2 overs): 242.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-6, 3-23, 4-25, 5-82, 6-92, 7-189, 8-190, 9-234.
West bowling: Munaf Patel 8-1-34-4, Jaydev Unadkat 8-0-27-0, Murtaja Vahora 8-0-44-0, Akshay Darekar 7.2-0-50-2, Iqbal Abdulla 10-0-68-4, Suryakumar Yadav 1-0-17-0.
Keywords: Deodhar Trophy