Mukesh overcomes Yusuf scare as North clinch title
North Zone 267 for 9 (Kaul 67) beat West Zone 218 (Pathan 80, Mukesh 5-59, Dewan 4-18) by 49 runs
For the second time this domestic season, Yusuf Pathan attempted to achieve the impossible, but unlike in the Duleep Trophy final, his efforts were not enough to take West Zone home, as North held their nerve to clinch the Deodhar Trophy at the Moti Bagh Stadium.
Chasing 268, West were out of contention at 108 for 6, with the spin duo of Mukesh Sharma and Rahul Dewan posing a lot of problems, on a track offering some turn. Enter Yusuf, and his outrageous brand of power-hitting that took the conditions totally out of the equation. He announced his intent immediately by swinging his first ball, off Dewan, for a big one over midwicket. His fourth ball, from Mukesh went in the same direction and the form bowlers were forced into a defensive mindset as if by magic. Virat Kohli knew exactly what Yusuf was capable of and effected bowling changes in an attempt to break his momentum, but off his ninth ball Yusuf pulled Bipul Sharma brutally for another six in his favourite area. It was clear that North had to find a way past him to win this match, and with support being in short supply, Yusuf had the license to chance his arm, a freedom that he relishes.
At the other end, Iqbal Abdulla knuckled down to hold one end up and rotate the strike around. In the 29th over of the innings, from Mukesh, Yusuf warmed up for the batting Powerplay by launching three consecutive sixes over the leg-side arc. In the next over, he brought up his fifty off 18 balls, the fastest in Indian List-A history, with a straight swing off Jaskaran Singh. Yusuf then cooled off for a couple of overs, working a brace of boundaries through the offside before targeting Rajat Bhatia in the 35th over, bringing up his eighth and ninth sixes.
With 55 runs required off 14 overs, North had few backers when Mukesh managed to get one past Yusuf. Uday Kaul completed the stumping to bring the curtains down on a fantastic innings. Spurred by the massive breakthrough, Mukesh and Dewan regained their mojo, and the remaining three wickets fell in quick succession to hand North a 49-run win. Mukesh finished with astonishing figures of 5 for 59, and was nigh unplayable on either side of Yusuf's blitz.
Earlier, North looked set to under-achieve with the bat, as a number of batsmen found their touch, but could not push on for big scores. Shikhar Dhawan set the tone with a 60-ball 48, before Kaul's measured 67 anchored the innings. Virat Kohli, Paras Dogra and Rajat Bhatia all threw it away after getting starts, and North were in danger of getting bowled out. The final thrust came from the tenth-wicket firm of Bipul and Jaskaran, who added 35 in 14 balls. Jaskaran hit three sixes in a seven-ball 25 that gave his side a strong total. As it transpired, it was strong enough, but only just.