Credit: Twitter

Credit: Twitter

South Zone clinched their ninth Deodhar Trophy title after demolishing East Zone in the final by 45 runs at the Puducherry Siechem Ground on Thursday. Defending a decent total of 328 runs, South Zone, led by Mayank Agarwal, sealed the game comfortably by a considerable margin of 45 runs, thanks to a scintillating century by Rohan Kunnummal in the first innings and a fiery spell in the second innings by Koushik. 

South Zone captain Mayank Agarwal called it right at the toss and opted to bat first in Pondicherry. He alongside 25-year-old Rohan Kunnummal put up a solid opening partnership of 181 runs and registered the record for the highest opening partnership for South Zone in Deodhar Trophy history. Kunnummal sprinted his way through his innings and brought up a fine century in the high-pressure match in quick time, in just 68 balls. He exhibited amazing footwork throughout his innings and even brought up ‘Virat Kohli’s’ iconic 'let the bat do the talking' celebration after the completion of his hundred. 

N Jagadeesan, who scored five consecutive centuries in the 2022 edition of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, then steadied the South Zone ship with a gritty knock of 54(60) and ensured that they crossed the 300-run mark and finished with 328-8. Shahbaz Ahmed and Utkarsh Singh were the better bowlers from East Zone as they picked up two wickets each at an economy of less than five. 

South Zone were unaffected by an early dropped catch, as Vasuki Koushik dismissed East Zone’s star batter Abhimanyu Easwaran on the very first ball of the next over. The situation only worsened for East Zone as Virat Singh was also dismissed in the fourth over, as Koushik got his second victim of the night, and the scorecard read 10-2. Utkarsh Singh who had survived the dropped catch, could not capitalize on his luck and was dismissed in the very next over and the pressure started to pile on East Zone after the top order fell like a pack of cards, with the scorecard reading 14-3.

Riyan Parag, the main man for East Zone, walked in and stitched up an amazing hundred-run partnership alongside Kumar Kushagra. He hit five long sixes and eight fours before being dismissed on 95 in a heartbreaking lbw appeal. He reviewed it, but ball tracking showed three red signs and he had to leave the pitch. Kumar Kushagra also tried his best after that and gave his best, but he too was dismissed after scoring 68(58). After that, the team never really recovered and lost out on the championship by a bare margin of 45 runs, despite courageous knocks from Parag and Kushagra.

Washington Sundar was the difference between winning and losing for South Zone as he picked up the wickets of the top three East Zone batsmen, who also top-scored in the match. The fast bowling duo of Koushik and Kaverappa decimated the East Zone top order and then Sundar made sure that South Zone always stayed in the game till the end. The contingent was led excellently by their skipper Mayank Agarwal, who led by example as he finished as the second-highest run scorer in the tournament, just 13 runs less than Riyan Parag.