Yashasvi Jaiswal (209 batting, 244b, 23×4, 3×6) hit a turbocharged double-hundred, his second of the tournament, as West Zone flattened South Zone on the third day of the Duleep Trophy final at the SNR College Cricket Ground in Coimbatore on Friday.
The Ajinkya Rahane-led side was 319 runs ahead in the contest after plundering 376 in just 83.1 overs against a hapless South Zone attack. The West Zone batters built on the impetus provided by pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Chintan Gaja, who wiped out the tail in just 13 balls as South Zone folded for 327, eking out a 57-run first innings lead.
West Zone asserted its dominance with Jaiswal and Shreyas Iyer (71, 113b, 4×4, 2×6) adding 169 runs for the third wicket before a steady unbeaten 58-ball 30 by Sarfaraz Khan extended South Zone’s misery. In the only disappointment for West Zone, Rahane fell for 15, trapped in front by Krishnappa Gowtham, who got one to skid through and keep low.
Jaiswal maintained his tempo and a sense of occasion during his match-defining stay at the crease. He struck R. Sai Kishore for four at long-off to bring up his 235-ball double-hundred and leapt in the air. His 150 came off 159 balls with a ramp to the third man boundary, a late cut past the slip cordon heralded his 119-ball century and a six over long-off took him to a half-century off 56 balls.
Iyer weathered a familiar short-ball ploy when Basil Thampi, with a fine-leg, deep square-leg and short midwicket, was brought back into the attack. Iyer ducked compulsively, even misreading the length on a couple of occasions and fending awkwardly with his bat.
However, Vihari soon relented as Gowtham and Kishore bowled in tandem, playing into Iyer’s strength against spin. Even medium-pacer T Ravi Teja returned, Iyer ramped a short-ball to the third-man fence before reaching his fifty off 90 balls after Tea. He made a statement by pulling another short one from Thampi for a four at deep square-leg and then rocked back and meted out the similar treatment to a Kishore half-tracker with a maximum.
Just when it looked like Iyer had aced the matchup, he chipped one to the deep extra-cover fielder against the run of play, rewarding Kishore for the second time in the match.
Earlier, eager to end his run-drought (four runs in the last three innings), Jaiswal hit the ground running with a crisp drive through the covers for four off Thampi in the first over. When the pacer was taken off, he had leaked 33 runs in three overs with West Zone racing to 40 for no loss in six overs.
Fellow-opener Priyank Panchal (40, 64b, 4×6) was hassled by VC Stephen, who came around the wicket to beat the right-hander consistently with the new ball but looked at ease against Gowtham, giving the off-spinner the charge and hitting him for two fours.
Vihari introduced Kishore – the top wicket-taker in the tournament – in the 17th over, when West Zone had already moved 21 runs ahead without the loss of a wicket. Kishore left his captain reassessing the decision when he got Panchal to awkwardly pull a length ball to the short midwicket fielder and ended the quickfire 138-run opening stand.
South Zone would have had Jaiswal for 62 had wicketkeeper Ricky Bhui held on to a sharp catch off Gowtham. The left-hander made the most of the reprieve, cutting pacers off the backfoot with flair, teasing spinners with the late cuts and taming them by charging down the track and clearing the straight boundaries. Gowtham could have also had Iyer for 58 if Rohan Kunnummal had grabbed a tough chance at square leg but, save for the wicket of Rahane, was left with his hands-on-head disappointment.
Summing up a frustrating day which left South Zone on the brink of desperation, captain Vihari bowled the final over before close.