Trailing by 150 runs and with only six wickets in hand, the only thing East Zone could have wished for on day three of the Duleep Trophy semi-final versus South Zone was to delay the sad reality. But on a lively Lahli track, they fared even worse than their first innings (84 all out) to get bundled out for 62 runs and hand South Zone a big win by an innings and 118 runs. The match just lasted for 2 days and a bit, and with many saying East as favorites before the game started this is really a huge win for the South Zone and would give them a huge confidence before the Finals on 29th October.
East resumed the day at 30 for 4 in 15 overs and signs of an early finish were there in the first over itself when Laxmi Ratan Shukla edged a loose drive outside off stump to second slip. The Karnataka slip cordon that had done superbly on day two, faltered with Karun Nair spilling the chance but Shukla’s intent with the bat was not that of staying in the middle for long.
The veteran did depart two overs later to HS Sharath as he failed to clear mid-on and from there on the wickets just kept falling. Saurabh Tiwary went for his shots but a misunderstanding in the middle between him and Natraj Behera resulted in Tiwary walking back to the pavilion for 13. Sharath was bowling a probing line and with Wriddhiman Saha not coming out to bat owing to a thumb injury, the end was near for East.
Saha had split his webbing on day two while keeping wickets and East did not take a chance with him and opted not to send him in. By the 24th over two more wickets fell as East crumbled to 62 all out with Sharath taking three wickets and Binny effecting two run-outs.
The foundation for this big win was laid on the first day itself by Robin Uthappa who scored a brilliant ton. Comparing it with the effort put in by the East batsman, who failed to reach a team 100 in both innings, the importance of Uthappa’s knock was vital.
Speaking after the match, East Zone fast bowler Varun Aaron said that the team had a bad match and they could afford one bad day but two was really bad. “It was a bad match for us but we can’t really afford to have two bad days. It definitely was a 200 plus wicket. I have played in Lahli earlier and this pitch was nothing as compared to previous times. It was just the case of our batsman not applying themselves. But as I said bad match, that is all to say,” said the fast bowler.
East skipper Manoj Tiwary too conceded the fact that losing the team for under 100 twice was not really something their team wanted and gave credit to the South bowlers who bowled really well.
Stuart Binny‘s crafty spell of medium-paced bowling during which he picked up seven wicket, four in the first innings and three during the follow-on, set the ball rolling for South. “It was good wicket to bowl on and I kept it simple. Bowling line to line was the key and there was just a hint of movement and I was able to extract it. I got three wickets with my inswing so I am very pleased with it. I am an outswinger and to get those wickets was really good,” said Binny after the match.
But Shukla had a different opinion about the pitch and said that the pitch behaved unpredictably on day two, “You know on day one the pitch was fine for the batsman but on day two it was moving all over the place. I would not say it was a good pitch but at the end of the day we played badly and that is why we lost,” added the veteran.
With this win, South Zone, comprising eight members of the domestic treble winners Karnataka side, will play the winner of the match between Central Zone and North Zone at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi.
South Zone 264 all out (Robin Uthappa 120, Laxmi Ratan Shukla 4/40) defeated East Zone 84 (Saurabh Tiwary 17, Stuart Binny 4/24), East Zone 62 (Laxmi Ratan Shukla 18, HS Sharath 4/27) by an innings and 118 runs.