Mumbai: Riding on belligerent half centuries from Suryakumar Yadav and Axar Patel, defending champions West Zone staged a magnificent fight back to edge past South Zone by 2 wickets and enter the Deodhar Trophy tournament final, here today.
Chasing an imposing 315 for victory in the second semi-final, West were struggling at 174 for six when Yadav (80 in 56 balls with 4 sixes, 7 fours) and No.8 batsman Patel (64 not out in 38 balls) got involved in a match-winning stand of 70 runs off 76 balls.
The seventh-wicket duo added a whopping 67 runs in the batting power play that turned the side's fortunes. Though Yadav, dropped twice on 9 and 11, departed at the score reading 244, left-handed Patel who struck 4 sixes and 5 fours in his 38-ball essay found an able partner in Shardul Thakur (31 not out in 23 balls) to take West to 319 for eight in 47.1 overs.
Fittingly, the Gujarat youngster, who has made a good impression in the series against Sri Lanka recently, hit the winning runs with a straight six to complete a memorable win at the Wankhede Stadium.
Top-order batsmen Sheldon Jackson (51) and Ambati Rayudu (54) had put on 89 runs in 91 balls for the second wicket but following their dismissals in quick succession, the hosts fell into trouble before Yadav and Patel bailed them out.
West, bidding for their fourth straight title, will meet East Zone in the final here on December 3 in a day-night clash.
Earlier, South's top-order feasted on some wayward bowling after being put in to bat by West and they piled on 314 for six. Half-centuries from Mayank Agarwal, Baba Aparajith, Manish Pandey and a well-made 47 by opener Robin Uthappa contributed in the imposing total.
In the morning, South got off to a rollicking start on the placid track with openers Agarwal and Uthappa taking a heavy toll of some poorly directed bowling from West medium pacers Dhawal Kulkarni and Thakur to put on a stand of 104 and lay a solid platform.
Agarwal top-scored with a stroke-filled 86 off 87 balls with ten fours, first-match centurion Aparajith made 56 off 64 balls and Pandey smashed his way to 55 off 50 balls.
The two openers, with Agarwal being the more aggressive batsman, added 37 in the first five overs before Domnic Muthuswami brought things under control with a tight first spell, aided at the other end by Patel's tight left-arm spin. Another fruitful stand of 76 runs in 74 balls followed between Agarwal and Aparajith, scorer of a century in the quarter final win over Central, as the 150 came up in the 26th over. Off-spinner Deepak Hooda had Agarwal, who was poised for his century, stumped with a wide ball down the leg side after the batsman had scored at almost a run-a-ball and struck ten fours.
A short ball from Kulkarni in his second spell sent back Aparajith, who hit two fours and as many sixes (both off rival skipper Yusuf Pathan) and was caught at deep mid-wicket. These two wickets in a short span brought West back in the game. However, South were aided by another 50-plus stand between Pandey, another contender from Karnataka who played some excellent improvised shots, and his state mate Karun Nair and then the side finished with a tall score by adding 53 runs in the last five overs.
Kulkarni ended up as the most successful bowler with 3 for 64, Thakur the most expensive and Domnic the most economical (1 for 44). Spinners Patel and Yusuf did not take a wicket.
Brief scores: South Zone 314 for 6 (Robin Uthappa 47, Mayank Agarwal 86, Baba Aparajith 56, Manish Pandey 55; Dhawal Kulkarni 3-64) lost to West Zone 319 for 8 in 47.1 overs (Sheldon Jackson 51, Ambati Rayudu 54, Suryakumar Yadav 80, Axar Patel not out 64, Shardul Thakur not out 31; Vinay Kumar 2-70, Stuart Binny 3-66) by 2 wickets.