South West Zone vs West Zone Reds
The South West Zone won their way to the National Championships on day five, with a convincing victory over West Zone Reds in what was effectively a semifinal game.
Riding five bowlers for the duration, the South West never let the Reds get comfortable. Abhiram Valisammagari (10 overs, 1 maiden, 38 runs, 3 wickets) struck first, stopping a promising start by Aditya Srinivas (19 from 20) for the first wicket in the sixth over. Captain Ali Sheikh (9 overs, 1 maiden, 22 runs, 2 wickets) took out his opposite, Sanjay Krishnamurthi (9 from 41), who has struggled surprisingly with the bat throughout the tournament, in the 18th over. Rahul Jariwalla would be the next victim, departing for 20 from 19, thanks to a Cherukupalli stumping off of Josh Saripella (10 overs, 29 runs, 2 wickets).
Though the going was tough and scoring was slow, the Reds were 86/3 at this point in the 24th over, and some steady play could still build a competitive total, considering the strength of the Reds bowling. Kanish Bhalla was battling from the start, and sitting at 32 runs from 67 balls, when he was finally bowled by Abhiram Valisammagari, just one over after Jariwala.
Pasula and Bhatti fell on consecutive overs in the 32nd and 33rd to Saripella and Laksh Parikh (10 overs, 2 maidens, 23 runs, 2 wickets) to tilt the game even more in the South West’s favor, 110/6.
Skanda Rohit Sharma (38 runs from 63 balls) partnered with Rohan Posanipally (13 from 23) for 24 runs, and then for 29 more with Adil Shivakumar (13 runs from 19 balls) to mount a relative comeback and drag the Reds to 163/8, with Soorya Selvakumar (10 overs, 1 maiden, 59 runs, 2 wickets) responsible for both wickets.
Sharma finally fell to Ali Sheikh in the 46th, and when Valisammagari claimed his third wicket, that of Dev Thadani (8 from 13) on the last ball of the 49th over, the Reds were finished at 173.
During the chase, Rehman Dar wouldn’t be denied, and with help from Ahan Bhakare (29 from 51), Tanaf Wasie (27 from 51), and Ali Sheikh (18 from 16), the South West cruised to victory in 37.2 overs.
Dar’s innings added to his heap for the week, as the Texan has shown why he was included in the national U-19 setup in 2019, and has built a case for himself for Player of the Tournament with the runs lead (252) going into the final against Mid-Atlantic on Saturday.
Colts vs South Zone
The Colts came into Friday’s matchup with two solid batting performances behind them, and a red hot first class batsman in Slade Van Staden amongst the leaders in runs. The South Zone had struggled in their prior game against the Mid-Atlantic Zone, but were eager to prove that along with their famously strong bowling, they could bat as well.
Batting first, the Colts fell apart right away, thanks to an exceptional day from Rohan Phadke (7 overs, 17 runs, 4 wickets). Phadke took the top four Colts batters out of the game, and he did so by the end of the 12th over, with the highlight being the caught and bowled wicket of Colts star captain Van Sladen for a golden duck.
Only a 46 run partnership between Rishi Ramesh (24 from 46) and Colts top scorer Gautham Ravindran (25 from 48) would tease a potential comeback, but Swiss Army knife Aryan Shan (10 overs, 36 runs, 4 wickets) and the red hot Elton Tucker Jr (7.2 overs, 1 maiden, 24 runs, 2 wickets) made sure it didn’t catch on, and the Colts were all out for 108 in the 35th over.
The second innings saw Phadke (46 runs from 49 balls) duplicate his magic, as he teamed with Heer Patel (38 runs from 69 balls) to chase the meager total without loss in the 20th over. The win puts the South Zone in the third place playoff, and should boost the team’s confidence on the way.
East Zone vs Midwest Zone
With neither team having experienced a win yet in the tournament, this matchup took on special meaning. Could the dangerous East put a full game together and take their place in the fifth place match? Or would the Midwest show that the region is closer to contending than prior results might have shown?
The East’s batting lived up to the hype, with each of their top five batters scoring 25 or more, and Safwan Ahmed (51 runs from 78 balls) and Mohamed Shaw (60 runs from 62, not out) achieving half centuries.
For the Midwest, Mohit Patel (10 overs, 1 maiden, 48 runs), Siddhant Shah (10 overs, 64 runs, 2 wickets), Tejas Visal (10 overs, 54 runs), Parth Patel (9 overs, 27 runs, 1 wicket), Shaunak Manjure (5 overs, 1 maiden, 18 runs) and Munn Patel (5 overs, 17 runs, 1 wicket) could not find the right formula to stop early partnerships, and went into their innings facing an uphill climb chasing 251/6.
Sagar Koul would stop the Midwest in their tracks, producing the tournament’s first five wicket innings in his 10 overs, while conceding only 45. Rahi Bhatia continued his economic pace, going 10 overs, with one maiden, for 30 runs and a wicket.
The Midwest started with a 42 run first wicket partnership between Kevin Philip (19 runs from 21 balls) and Bhavya Mehta (24 runs from 35 balls), before both were sent back to the dugout by Sagar Koun. Captain Mohit Patel would end up one run shy of a half century, but would fall to Safwan Ahmed (2 overs, 3 runs, 1 wicket) for the eighth wicket in the 32nd over. The Midwest Zone would fall 88 runs shy after 35 overs.
Saturday’s match-ups are headlined by the first place playoff between the two unbeaten teams, the Mid-Atlantic Zone and the South West Zone. The third place playoff features the South Zone against the West Zone Reds. Fifth place will be decided by the Colts and the East Zone, and seventh place comes down to the Midwest Zone vs the West Zone Blues.
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