Duleep Trophy 2023 – Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari star in thrilling chase as South join West in final

What was smooth sailing for most of the journey turned into a rocky ride towards the end, as South Zone, in pursuit of 215 against North Zone, slipped from 191 for 4 to 213 for 8 in their run chase. Eventually though, Sai Kishore kept his calm and deposited the opposition captain Jayant Yadav for a straight six to steer South to a two-wicket win, and with it, a place in the Duleep Trophy final. South hunted down their target at better than a run a ball in Bengaluru, where there were two lengthy rain delays on the fourth and final day.

The South batters kept playing their shots despite wickets falling in a hurry, with the finish line nearing, after the experienced Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari laid the foundations for their victory, which Ricky Bhui and Tilak Varma built upon with an aggressive partnership for the fifth wicket.

Heading into day four, South needed another 194 to win with all ten wickets in hand, and the free-stroking Agarwal dominated his opening stand off 44 with Sai Sudharsan. Vaibhav Arora then removed Sudharsan and R Samarth in quick succession to leave South 59 for 2. That brought their captain Vihari to the crease, and with dark clouds overhead and rain in the air, he got into counterattack mode alongside Agarwal.

They doubled the score in quick time, adding 59 off 47 balls while driving and punching boundaries at will. That forced North into defensive fields, but Jayant got rid of Agarwal for 54 to give North Zone a glimmer of hope. Vihari kept motoring at the other end, however, and even after he was dismissed for 43 by Harshit Rana, South were only 74 away with six wickets standing.

Bhui and Varma then added 50 off just 33 deliveries, before Bhui’s wicket for 34 opened the floodgates, with Rana and Baltej Singh striking twice each in the space of 3.4 overs. In the end, South just scraped through, with defending champions West Zone waiting for them in a replay of the last Duleep Trophy final.

Defending champions West Zone qualified for the final of the 2023 Duleep Trophy on the basis of the first-innings lead after persistent rain in Alur forced their semi-final against Central Zone to end in a tame draw. West will face South Zone for the title clash, starting on July 12 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Resuming the day on 292 for 9, West’s last pair could add only five runs before Saransh Jain dismissed Yuvrajsinh Dodiya in the second over of the morning.

Central never threatened to chase down 390. They lost their openers, Himanshu Mantri and Vivek Singh, for single-digit scores. Dhruv Jurel and Amandeep Khare took them past 50 before Dharmendrasinh Jadeja had the former stumped for 25.

Rinku Singh took the attacking route and hit three fours and as many sixes to take Central past 100 at lunch. But Dodiya ended his innings on 40 off 30 balls with the first delivery after the interval.

Rain, though, allowed only six overs in the second session, forcing both captains to shake hands around 2.20pm local time.

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