Iresh Saxena, Majumdar take East Zone to Duleep Trophy title
East Zone 232 (Ishank Jaggi 100*, Jalaj Saxena 5-62) and 8 for 0 drew with Central Zone 189 (Srivastava 94, Iresh Saxena 5-58, Majumdar 4-29)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
East Zone's spinners, led by left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena's 5-58, and part-time legspinner Anustup Majumdar, helped them to a 43-run lead against Central Zone, thereby ensuring they took the Duleep Trophy title after a rain-affected final in Chennai.
Central Zone's wickets kept falling regularly on the final day before Majumdar twisted the game, which hung in the balance at tea time. He took three quick wickets to leave Central Zone struggling at 167 for 8, after they had been in control at 147 for 4. Opener Tanmay Srivastava kept Central Zone's hopes alive when wickets fell around him. But when he became the ninth wicket to fall, caught by the short-leg fielder for 94 off Iresh Saxena, East Zone had virtually ended Central Zone's chances of going past the first-innings total.
After being bowled out for 189, essentially conceding the game, Central Zone quickly bowled the final five overs that remained in the day without much enthusiasm; medium-pacer Praveen Kumar bowled off a couple of steps.
The 43-run first-innings lead came about, apart from the spinners contributing, through Ishank Jaggi's responsible unbeaten ton that helped East Zone achieve a moderate 232. After being adjudged the Man of the Match for his knock, he said his game-plan of patiently staying at the crease and building partnerships helped him top-score. He dominated the last-wicket stand of 42, which proved to be the margin between the two innings.
Central Zone had squandered positions of dominance at various junctures in the game. They allowed their opponent's lower order to add vital runs after having reduced them to 117 for 6. While batting, they were off to a strong start through their openers to be in command at 68 for 0 but wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat and No. 10 Murali Kartik were the only other batsmen to register double-digit scores.
After the start of day five was delayed due to a wet outfield, East Zone struck in the fourth over, removing Robin Bist for two. It was the only wicket in the innings to be taken by a seamer, Basant Mohanty, who surprised Bist with a short delivery. Maneria fell to Iresh Saxena after nine more overs, but a stand of 50 between Rawat and Srivastava appeared to be taking their team towards 232. After tea, the introduction of Majumdar broke their back.
Majumdar, whom his captain Natraj Behera had never seen bowl, first removed Rawat, who edged a spinning delivery to the wicketkeeper for 24. Jalaj Saxena then fell to Iresh Saxena through a rash shot, as he tried to smash a waist-high full toss towards deep midwicket, only to edge the delivery to first slip. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the hero of Central Zone's semi-final against North Zone, arrived, and departed after facing three of Majumdar's deliveries. He fell to his well-directed googly, to be trapped in front.
Central Zone then lost their eighth wicket when Praveen Kumar attempted to slog Majumdar's legspinner, to be caught at cover. The innings ended after five more overs, with Majumdar aptly taking the last wicket, that of Kartik, to complete the collapse.
Mohammad Kaif, the losing captain, admitted his team should have completed the task. "We needed two 70-80 run partnerships; we started well, but we should have won. East Zone fought really well, defending a small target."
The win gave East Zone their second successive Duleep Trophy win.