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Jaiswal, Sarfaraz, Unadkat fire West Zone to Duleep Trophy title

The victorious West Zone team with the Duleep Trophy TNCA

West Zone 270 (Patel 98, Sai Kishore 5-86) and 585 for 4 dec (Jaiswal 265, Sarfaraz 127*, Iyer 71, Sai Kishore 2-157) beat South Zone 234 (Kunnummal 93, Mulani 4-51) and 327 (Indrajith 118, Unadkat 4-52) by 294 runs

West Zone won the 2022 Duleep Trophy title after crushing South Zone by a massive margin of 294 runs on the fifth day in Coimbatore on Sunday.

Set a huge target of 529 runs for an outright win, South Zone were bowled out for 234 in 71.2 overs, with left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (4 for 51) picking up three of the four wickets to fall on the final day.

Resuming at 154 for six, South batters Ravi Teja and R Sai Kishore defied the West attack for nearly two hours. Most of the South Zone's experienced batters failed and fell to the pace duo of Atit Sheth and Jaydev Unadkat on the fourth evening, leaving the team in a hopeless situation.

Teja (53) batted with resolve and was well supported by lanky Sai Kishore (7), who kept the bowlers at bay for 82 deliveries. The duo added 57 runs in 157 deliveries, handling the West Zone bowlers with circumspection. While Teja got three boundaries and hit a six, Sai Kishore was content in defending and spending time in the middle. Medium-pacer Chintan Gaja broke through with the score at 203 when he had Kishore caught by Priyank Panchal.

West Zone had amassed 585 for four before declaring in their second innings after conceding a 57-run first-innings lead to their opponents. Playing prominent roles in firing the West Zone to the big win in the batting department were Yashasvi Jaiswal (265) and Sarfaraz Khan (127) in the second innings. The bowlers were led by seasoned left-arm seamer Unadkat, who finished with a match haul of 6 for 80.

Batting for nearly five sessions, West Zone left their opponents flattened, and the South Zone team did not quite recover from that. That was evident from their second innings batting as, with the exception of Rohan Kunnummal (93 off 100 balls), most other batters failed to live up to the challenge.

"The way everyone contributed was magnificent," West Zone captain Ajinkya Rahane said after the match. "Just looking to play one game at a time, not thinking too much for the future. Excited about the season ahead, first full season after Covid, looking forward to playing for Mumbai."

The Duleep Trophy returned to the zonal format this season after an experiment with three teams for a few years.

"I think zonal cricket is very important for those players who have been doing well for their states - Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy are very important for picking out Test cricketers for India in the future."