: It was one of those contests where the winner was known much before the last ball was bowled.
Once the West Zone batsmen, mainly man-of-the-match Kedar Jadhav and Cheteshwar Pujara, made a mockery of East Zone's decision to field by raising a mammoth 342 for seven — the fourth highest in Deodhar Trophy history — the winner of the first semifinal was not difficult to guess.
Abdulla takes six
East Zone's top-order failed to rise to the occasion and West stayed on course. Left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla took a career-best six for 32 to spell East's doom. Only Saurabh Tiwary used the opportunity to warm up for the upcoming Indian Premier League with an unbeaten 112 off 95 deliveries, dotted with 16 boundaries.
Armed with a 108-run triumph, West travels to Dharamshala to play the final on Sunday against the winner of the North-Central match.
West Zone, last year's finalist, owed it to Jadhav's ruthless onslaught and Pujara's steady approach that produced 171 runs for the third wicket off just 140 deliveries. After openers Parthiv Patel (69, 9x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (36, 7x4) laid the foundation with 84 runs, Jadhav and Pujara progressed merrily, both contributing 36 runs apiece with the score reading 181 for two after 35 overs.
At this stage, West opted for the batting Power Play and Jadhav cut loose. He smashed three successive boundaries off Laxmi Ratan Shukla, smashed two boundaries and a six off Shahbaz Nadeem, struck two off-side boundaries off Mohammad Shami before hitting Abu Nechim for three fours and a six in the 40th over.
The Power Play produced 68 runs, with Jadhav adding 58 runs and Pujara just 10. Pujara, struggling for runs for the better part of the season, could afford to spend time in the middle. Even as Jadhav went berserk, hitting two sixes and 17 boundaries, Pujara struck just six boundaries off 85 deliveries, but played his part to perfection.
Later, Suryakumar Yadav stepped up the run-rate by hitting an 11-ball 27, inclusive of three sixes and two boundaries. West's total could have touched 350 had Shami (four for 62) not struck twice in the final over that produced just three runs.
The scores :
West Zone : Parthiv Patel c Nadeem b Nandi 69, A. Rahane c Jaggi b Shukla 36, Cheteshwar Pujara b Shami 70, Kedar Jadhav c D. Jadhav b Nandi 114, Suryakumar Yadav lbw b Shami 27, Chirag Jani c Samantary b Shami 17, Ankit Bawne lbw b Shami 2, Iqbal Abdulla (not out) 2, Akshay Darekar (not out) 1; Extras (w-4): 4; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs): 342.
Fall of wickets : 1-84, 2-117, 3-288, 4-293, 5-328, 6-339, 7-339.
East Zone bowling : Mohammad Shami 10-0-62-4, Abu Nechim 7-0-61-0, L.R. Shukla 7-0-52-1, Biplab Samantray 6-0-50-0, Arnab Nandi 10-0-56-2, Shahbaz Nadeem 10-0-61-0.
East Zone : Dheeraj Jadhav lbw b Unadkat 2, Ishank Jaggi b Abdulla 22, Anustup Majumdar lbw b Abdulla 21, L.R. Shukla c Parthiv Patel b Abdulla 3, Saurabh Tiwary (not out) 112, Wriddhiman Saha c Pujara b Abdulla 18, Biplop Samantray c Pujara b Jani 12, Arnab Nandi c Jani b Yadav 10, Shahbaz Nadeem st. Parthiv Patel b Abdulla 26, Mohammad Shami b Abdulla 1, Abu Nechim c Parthiv Patel b Unadkat 1; Extras (lb-1, nb-2, w-3): 6; Total (in 40 overs): 234.
Fall of wickets : 1-3, 2-36, 3-44, 4-60, 5-94, 6-132, 7-156, 8-213, 9-221.
West Zone bowling : Munaf Patel 7-0-30-0, Jaydev Unadkat 9-1-50-2, Iqbal Abdulla 7-0-32-6, Chirag Jani 7-0-45-1, Akshay Darekar 6-0-46-0, Suryakumar Yadav 4-0-30-1.