Hyderabad, Feb. 6 : Yusuf Pathan''s herculean, but fortuitous unbeaten 210, helped West Zone to chase down a record Duleep Trophy victory total of 536 on Saturday.
West Zone beat South Zone by three wickets. South had itself to blame because Pathan was dropped five times during his huge knock which contained 19 boundaries and 10 sixes. It all came down to which team could hold its nerve better under pressure.
At the start of the final day, Yusuf was unbeaten on 84 with his team needing a further 157 with four wickets in hand. Yusuf got 126 of them. He reached three figures for the second time in the match in signature style, cutting Ganapathy down to the deep backward point boundary, cricinfo reports.
A resolute Pinal Shah blunted the South attack on the final morning while Yusuf continued to flay the bowling, aided by a runner after cramping up, and the butter fingers of the South fielders. Shah''s role was simple - all he had to do was defend and give Yusuf the support he needed. He plodded to six off 40 deliveries and he remained on that score for the next 31 deliveries.
South were desperate for a breakthrough but when the opportunity came, they literally let it slip. Their first blunder of the day came when Ganapathy dropped Yusuf off his own bowling, fumbling on his follow through. He was batting on 102 then. It was Yusuf''s third life since he walked in, having been let off on 15 and 65 on Friday.
The bowlers who suffered the most due to the let-offs was Aushik Srinivas, the left-arm spinner from Tamil Nadu playing his first Duleep final. Having been let down twice on the fourth day, there was more agony on the fifth as he watched KB Pawan grass a sitter at backward point. Yusuf, batting on 125, sliced it to Pawan''s right and poor Srinivas looked on helplessly as the fielder grabbed at the ball too early.
Yusuf refused to drop anchor after those drops and continued to gamble by taking on the bowling, carting the ball over the infield if the ball was pitched up and cutting if there was width. Shah fell for 16 when the latter spooned a catch back to the spinner Rohan Prem. Shah did his job, supporting Yusuf in an invaluable stand of 105 for the seventh wicket.
Prem, however, was at the receiving end of a Yusuf onslaught. The batsman smashed him for five fours and three sixes to blaze towards the target. Yusuf had started cramping up, and called for a runner - his brother Irfan Pathan - when on 144. West were 80 short of the target then and it was at that stage when Yusuf really slaughtered Prem, bringing up his 150 with a boundary past cover.
South committed yet another blunder when C M Gautham, keeping in place of Dinesh Karthik, let go another sitter with Yusuf on 170, this time off Ganapathy an over before lunch. South had one last chance when 22 runs were needed, Ramesh Powar would have been caught yards short if there was a direct hit from point, but the throw sailed wide. Powar has worked hard on his batting this season, and it showed during his confident 28-ball 18.
Yusuf decided to settle the match in a jiffy after Powar''s run-out opportunity, slamming two consecutive sixes off Prem to bring up his double-century. The final flourish was, fittingly, reserved for Yusuf, who smashed S Aravind over long-on to seal the record chase.
It surpassed the previous highest first-class chase of 513 for 9 between Central Province and Southern Province in the 2003-04 Sri Lankan domestic season.
It was a classic follow-up to the Ranji final recently, which also went down to the wire in Mysore.
West Zone 541 for 7 (Yusuf 210*, Pathak 130, Jaffer 66) and 251 (Yusuf 108, Ganapathy 5-75) beat South Zone 400 (Dinesh Karthik 183, Satish 53, Irfan 5-100) and 386 (Dinesh Karthik 150, Gautam 88, Kulkarni 5-58) by three wickets.