Taking 20 wickets in less than a day, West Zone trounced East Zone by an innings and 363 runs with more than a day to spare in their Duleep Trophy league match at the Nehru stadium in Pune on Saturday. With this, West Zone completed their engagements with 17 points and await the result of the Central Zone-South Zone clash to know their fate in the competition. If Central Zone defeats South Zone, they will finish runners-up with 19 points. If Central Zone get only five points, then West Zone will take the second spot in the tournament, already won by North Zone.
If Indian medium pacer Ajit Agarkar routed East Zone in the first innings, former Indian leg spinner Sairaj Bahutule laid them low in the second innings. While Agarkar, with five for 22, was instrumental in bowling out East Zone for 132 the first time around, the 28-yearold Bahutule brought the match to a swift end by taking six for 49 including a hat-trick and bowling out East Zone for 161 in the second innings.
East Zone's capitulation was surprising considering that they started the day at 50 for no loss in the face of West Zone's imposing first innings total of 656 for seven declared. Once the opening stand between skipper Shiv Sundar Das (38) and SZ Suffri (27) was broken at 55, the rest of the batting simply caved in. Three wickets fell with the score on 88 as Agarkar was on a hat-trick after dismissing Das and Sukhbinder with successive deliveries. Only a last wicket partnership of 27 between Utpal Chaterjee (18 not out) and J Zaman (1), the next best after the opening stand and the fact that West Zone conceded as many as 28 extras, boosted the East Zone total to 132.
East Zone fared no better the second time around. This time their top scorer was RR Parida with 41. He faced only 48 balls, hitting seven fours and a six. But the rest of the batting fumbled against Bahutule. Where Agarkar failed, Bahutule succeeded. He removed Sanjay Raul and Sukhbinder Singh with the fifth and sixth balls of an over and then with the first ball of his next, completed an unusual hat-trick by having P Jai Chandra leg before. It was only the second such feat in the competition, the previous being notched up by Kapil Dev for North Zone against West Zone in the 1978-79 final.