Jaffer and Powar star in West Zone's win
West Zone 236 for 7 (Jaffer 89, Srivastava 3-52) beat Central Zone 234 (Abbas Ali 51, Kumar 51, Powar 4-25) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
West Zone huffed and puffed to a three-wicket win over Central Zone in the opening match of the Deodhar Trophy at Ahmedabad. West Zone were coasting to victory after opener Wasim Jaffer laid the foundation with a calm and collected 89 before a wicket burst gave the opposition a glimmer of hope. In the end, the Mumbai duo of Amol Muzumdar and Abhishek Nayar steered the side home with seven overs to spare.
Jaffer and Yusuf Pathan, promoted up the order, added a quick-fire 47 for the first wicket in conditions where the seamers struggled to contain the batsmen with the new ball. Yusuf made a breezy 20 off 18 balls before edging to Rohit Jhalani off RP Singh. Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the former Indian batsman, joined Jaffer and the pair added 102 for the third wicket. Jaffer was particularly impressive, picking the gaps with ease, managing 13 boundaries in his 106-ball knock.
Shalabh Srivastava, the left-arm seamer, caught the middle order off guard with three quick strikes to peg West Zone back. Irfan Pathan, boosted by the news of his final inclusion in the World Cup squad, failed to cash in and Srivastava proceeded to scalp Parthiv Patel and Sairaj Bahutule in successive deliveries with West Zone needing a further 20. Nayar and Muzumdar buckled down to polish off the remaining runs in the face of some penetrative bowling and sharp fielding by Central Zone.
Earlier, Ramesh Powar, the offspinner, played his part with a miserly spell to restrict Central to 234 after the openers got off to a flier. Powar's ten overs included four top-order wickets in quick succession, as he applied the choke on the Central batsmen, conceding only 25 runs.
The spotlight was on Pathan to prove his form and fitness in this crucial encounter, one which was to determine his participation in the World Cup. His first ball, an inswinger bowled wide outside the off stump was dispatched over midwicket by Praveen Kumar, who blazed away in an opening stand of 85 with Faiz Fazal in just under 15 overs. Kumar made merry against Pathan and Rakesh Patel, scoring 51 off 42 balls with three sixes.
The spinners were brought on early and Powar removed Kumar, courtesy of some neat work behind the stumps by Patel. The Central batsmen found it difficult to free their arms against Powar who varied his length beautifully. The in-form Mohammad Kaif was Powar's second big victim and he proceeded to take two more wickets to leave Central at 110 for 4. It was a statement of intent from Powar, who was left out of the World Cup squad despite a decent showing in the one-dayers against West Indies recently. His fellow spinners, Bahutule and Yusuf Pathan chipped in with a wicket each to leave Central at 165 for 8.
S Abbas Ali, the left-hander, revived the innings with a half century and his stand of 62 with Singh averted an early finish and lifted the side to a respectable total. Ali reached his fifty at the tail-end of the innings, falling for 51. Pathan finished with two wickets - dismissing both Ali and Singh - but was a little expensive, conceding over five and a half runs per over.