South Zone 296 for 9 (Aparajith 113, Nair 74, Pankaj 5-45) beat Central Zone 180 (Arjit 66, Vinay 3-8) by 116 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The India selectors were in attendance at the Wankhede stadium keeping a watchful gaze on some of the fringe players in the Deodhar Trophy opener between South Zone and Central Zone. It's the last domestic one-day tournament. Batsmen such as Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Sanju Samson were all dismissed for single-digit scores, while seamer Ishwar Pandey and chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav were taken for runs. But Tamil Nadu's B Aparajith smashed his second List A century to set up the foundation of South's crushing win against a depleted Central.
Aparajith was confident from the outset but blossomed once spin was introduced. He stepped out second ball against Piyush Chawla and drove it all along the ground to the wide long-off boundary. Not that the bowlers were testing him. Both Chawla and Kuldeep delivered a fair share of short deliveries and Aparajith feasted on them, often using the pull shot to ping the midwicket boundary. But he was equally adept at using his feet the moment he saw any flight, which meant he was never tied down in his innings.
He reached his half-century in 50 balls in the 28th over by which time the innings had been injected with some momentum due to an aggressive Karun Nair at the other end. South had been slow after losing their top three to the seamers: Uthappa caught behind off a rising delivery from Pankaj Singh, Mayank Agarwal edging to slip off Ishwar Pandey and Manish playing all around a big inswinger from Anureet Singh to be bowled. Nair played the swinging ball from Anureet carefully at the start of the innings but then opened up once the two spinners came into operation.
Nair's first boundary came off a sweep off Kuldeep, he followed it up with consecutive pull shots against Chawla in the next over, then reverse-swept and pulled Kuldeep for boundaries in the next over to move into the 30s. In between, the fifty of the partnership had been raised. Chawla soon switched Kuldeep with offspinner Jalaj Saxena, but continued leaking runs and ended up with 61 runs from his seven overs.
As Nair's pace increased, Aparajith fed his partner the strike. Nair reached his half-century off 40 deliveries and the two brought up the century stand in 15 overs. Nair looked set for a century but he fell for 74, swatting a short ball from Pankaj to deep midwicket. The 124-run partnership laid a strong platform for a tall total. Aparajith continued to push on with carefully placed chips and drives and brought up his century off 98 balls. He celebrated the landmark with a casual hit over extra cover off Ishwar that went all the way.
Wickets tumbled towards the end, three of them falling to Pankaj in the last over of the innings to give the bowler a five-for, but Aparajith's innings had already lifted the total to a challenging level.
Central's batting appeared thin in comparison to South's - no Naman Ojha, no Robin Bist, no Mahesh Rawat - and it didn't help that they lost their first wicket with only a run on the board. Vinay Kumar caught Jalaj Saxena napping outside the crease and ran him out brilliantly. Saxena had played a defensive shot and the ball had spun back behind the stumps. But Vinay sprinted past the batsman and kicked the ball back with his heel to hit the stumps. Saxena was taken by surprise and his bat was in the air. Jitesh Sharma, batting with an unusual Shiv Chanderpaul-like stance, edged Vinay to second slip and Ashok Menaria was trapped lbw four balls later as Central were already in trouble at 4 for 3.
Central's batsmen prodded and pushed around during the innings, never really threatening South's total. Arjit Gupta smashed his way around to a quick half-century - his 66 included five sixes and five fours - in the dying stages of the chase but the damage had been done at the top. Vinay Kumar returned with the spell of 6-2-8-3. It was South's first win against Central after five consecutive losses in the Deodhar Trophy.
South advanced to the semi-final on Monday against West Zone.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo