New Delhi, Nov 2 :
Central Zone staged a dramatic comeback to stun South Zone by nine runs to clinch the Duleep Trophy crown at the Ferozeshah Kotla here Sunday.
South lost nine wickets, adding just 107 runs to their overnight score of 184/1 as Central bowlers Pankaj Singh and the spin trio of Piyush Chawla, Ali Murtaza and Jalaj Saxena built up pressure to plot the downfall of their opposition on the fifth and concluding day of the tournament final.
Rahul, though, started the day with two smooth straight drives in the second over of the morning bowled by Ishwar Pandey. However, his stay was cut short by a Pankaj delivery that darted in after pitching on the off stump and Rahul played it across to miss the ball and was given leg before wicket. But his 130-run knock already put South in almost complete command.
Four deliveries later, Karthik (0) did the mistake of playing a full length ball too close to the body and dragged it on to the stumps with the team score reading 203/3.
Following, R. Prasanna (29) and overnight batsman Baba Aparajith (56) tried to rebuild the innings, relying on ones and twos. The young duo showed a lot of responsibility to see off the danger before left-hander Prasanna decided to cut loose.
He hammered two sixes and a four in an over bowled by left-arm spinner Murtaza and with the help of another couple of boundaries, he was looking confident before off-spinner Saxena trapped him in front of the wickets.
Aparajith completed his fifty and also perished one over later with the team’s score reading 252/5. He went forward to defend a Chawla delivery but was found short of his crease by wicketkeeper Naman Ojha, to give whiff of a chance for Central.
Saxena, Chawla and Murtaza exerted further pressure on the South batsmen and Saxena was rewarded with another wicket, taking Hanuma Vihari’s (1) catch off his own bowling.
Murtaza spelt further trouble for South by rattling the stumps of skipper Vinay Kumar, who played well for a score of 24.
With the team still shy of 21 runs to victory, the responsibility fell on Shreyas Gopal (12) and Pragyan Ojha (2), who was given leg before wicket on Chawla’s bowling.
Later, Mutaza clean bowled Abhimanyu Mithun (0) and Shreyas Gopal (12) to trigger wild celebrations in the Central camp, who pulled off one of the most dramatic wins in first class cricket.
For the winning team, Murtaza and Chawla picked up three wickets apiece while Jalaj and Pankaj supported them nicely, taking two apiece.
Brief scores: Central Zone 276 and 403 beat South Zone 379 and 291 in 88.4 overs (Lokesh Rahul 130, Baba Aparajith 56; Ali Murtaza 3/59, Piyush Chawla 3/83, Jalaj Saxena 2/44, Pankaj Singh 2/44) by 9 runs.