Pathak and Yusuf keep West in the hunt
West Zone 379 for 6 (Pathak 130, Yusuf Pathan 84*, Absolem 2-53) and 251 need another 157 runs to beat South Zone 400 and 386 for 9 decl
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A day after Dinesh Karthik became the third batsman to score hundreds in each innings of a Duleep Trophy final, Yusuf Pathan threatened to do the same as West Zone attempted a daring tilt at the windmills, chasing a monumental target of 536 with much spirit in Hyderabad. On a day of fluctuating fortunes, South had managed to nose ahead by stumps, with West still 157 runs behind with four wickets remaining.
West began the day at 50 for 0 and Dinesh Karthik opted out of wicketkeeping duties, leaving M Gautam to don the gloves. The change did not bring South much luck though, as Chirag Pathak and Harshad Khadiwale extended their good work from the third day to set up a solid platform for the chase. Pathak started in style, turning C Ganapathy for four off the day's first ball, before slashing him over third man to bring up fifty. Khadiwale got going, striking Alfred Absolem for boundaries, and set the tone for a long day for South at the office.
A further 67 runs were added to the overnight score and the bowlers seemed to have run out of ideas when part-timer Srikkanth Anirudha intervened, getting Khadiwale to edge one behind. That brought out Wasim Jaffer and West could not have asked for a more accomplished batsman for the occasion. Jaffer, for his part, slotted into Khadiwale's role perfectly, playing second fiddle to Pathak and keeping the score ticking along. Pathak grew in confidence, and made South pay for Ganesh Satish's drop at short leg, striking Aushik Srinivas for boundaries. The pair took their side to lunch at 173, of which the opener had scored 99.
Pathak duly reached his fourth first-class ton, smashing Rohan Prem to the ropes in the first over after the break and the leather hunt continued unabated for South. Pathak struck 16 fours and three sixes in 168 balls, before Absolem finally got him for 130. S Aravind got into the act quickly afterwards, removing Bhavik Thaker for his second duck of the match. When Jaffer fell to a dodgy lbw verdict six overs later, West were not even half way to the target and seemed to be going into collapse-mode.
But they had their in-form batsman, Yusuf, at the crease. South were guilty of putting down some easy chances, and could still go on to pay the price for the biggest of them all. Yusuf lofted Srinivas to long-on, where Satish once again floundered a sitter. Yusuf was on 15 at the time, and it was just the stroke of fortune that he needed to kick into top gear. The drop and what followed raised visions of the IPL 2008 final, where he went on to win the match after being put down early. Yusuf responded in similar vein here, pulling out an array of breath-taking strokes - the reverse sweep off Srinivas, the inside out extra-cover drive off Ganapathy, the loft over long-off off Aravind - to take the fight to the South attack.
He needed support at the other end, and for the second time in the match, Ravindra Jadeja chose not to display the stomach for a scrap. His dismissal brought Irfan Pathan to the crease and the brothers joined forces to keep their side in the match. Yusuf smashed the unlucky Srinivas for his biggest six of the day, to bring up fifty, before hitting two more in his next over, while Irfan got going with a string of fours off Aravind. The fifty-run stand came in quick time, as the target was brought under 200. Yusuf kept the momentum going, driving and dabbing Absolem for boundaries, while Irfan matched him shot for shot, punishing Srinivas at the other end.
West had the momentum and the ascendancy, and in keeping with the day's trend, there was to be another twist before stumps. In the 93rd over of the innings, Absolem got one to move into Irfan, inducing an inside edge on to the stumps. The dismissal brought out Pinal Shah, the first of the tailenders, to handle the last over. South will believe they hold the upper hand going into the final day, but with Yusuf still at large and the form shown by the West tail in the first innings, they will have an anxious night before the denouement.