Mumbai: Riding on Baba Aparajith's splendid century, South Zone crushed a hapless Central Zone by 116 runs with 13.3 overs to spare in the Deodhar Trophy quarter final at the Wankhede Stadium, here on Saturday.
Aparajith, who batted at no.3, compiled a stroke-filled 105-ball 113 runs, laced with 2 sixes and eight fours, to power South to an imposing 296 for nine.
The Tamil Nadu batsman was well supported by Karun Nair, who made an attacking 74 off 62 balls inclusive of nine hits to the fence as the two revived a stuttering innings with a partnership of 124 in 109 balls for the fourth wicket.
In reply, Central started disastrously to be 3 down for 4 and then proceeded to be eventually shot out for 180 in 36.3 overs. Three batsmen were run-out, including the opener and the second-highest scorer Mukul Dagar (47 in 64 balls).
Number-seven batsman Arijit Gupta smashed 5 fixes and as many fours in his 49-ball 66 to keep Central's slender hopes alive till the power play.
South and Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar picked up 3 for 8 in 6 overs while little known left-arm spinner Darshan Misal of Goa gave him useful support by grabbing 2 wickets.
South, who thus avenged the defeat suffered at the hands of Central in the Duleep Trophy final held earlier this month in Delhi, will meet holders and host West Zone in the semi final here on December 1.
Put into bat, South began well on a track that had initial 'life', offering bounce and seam movement, but then lost three of their top batsmen to poor shots. Aparajith and Nair soon rallied the team with a fine fourth-wicket century stand.
Openers Uthappa and Mayank Agarwal, who made an attractive 35, put on 32 runs in testing conditions before both chased wide deliveries and threw away their wickets.
Aparajith, who registered his second ton in the tournament following his innings of 121 against East Zone last season, came to the crease at the fall of opener Uthappa at 32 in the last ball of the 9th over and batted almost right till the end.
The 20-year-old's shot selection was precise and he hit 8
fours and two sixes ? one each of Ishwar Pandey and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav.
Karnataka youngster Nair, who joined Aparajith when the he was on 32, soon became the dominant partner in their innings-reviving stand.
Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena though commanded some respect from both Nair, who reached his 50 in just 41 balls, and Aparajith, but it needed the well-built Pankaj Singh to return for a second spell and end the partnership during the second power play which yielded 39 runs and the wicket of Nair.
Nair, who struck 9 fours in his 62-ball innings, was caught at deep mid-wicket, mistiming a pull off Pankaj who then got rid off rival skipper Vinay Kumar, Sachin Baby and Ashish Reddy to return with impressive figures of 5 for 45.
Aparajith, after batting so well, lost his patience as he tried to swing Saxena from well outside the off stump and offered a catch to Dagar stationed at deep mid wicket.
South added 71 runs in the last ten overs, including 45 in the last five.
Central began their reply in very poor fashion with the foolish run out of opener Saxena with just one run on the board and then lost the wickets of Jitesh Sharma and Ashok Meneria too in the fifth over from rival skipper Vinay Kumar and could not recover from these early blows.
The 59-run fourth wicket stand between opener Mukul Dagar (47 in 64 balls) and Anand Bais was nipped by a superb direct hit at the non-striker's end from square leg by Sachin Baby and was later followed by Dagar's own run out with the score on 82 to virtually end Central's resistance.
The Harbhajan Singh-led North will meet East, captained by Manoj Tiwari, in the first semi final tomorrow. The final is slated for December 3 after a day of rest on December 2.
Brief scores: South Zone 296 for 9 (Mayank Agarwal 35, Baba Aparajith 113, Karun Nair 74; Pankaj Singh 5 for 45, Jalaj Saxena 2 for 46) beat Central Zone 180 all out in 36.3 overs (Mukul Dagar 47, Piyush Chawla 31, Arijit Gupta 66; R Vinay Kumar 3 for 8, Darshan Misal 2 for 41).