Central Zone emerged winners of the Senior Women’s Inter-zonal three-day tournament, 2016-17. The only team to win two matches, the Mithali Raj-led team finished at the top of the table with 19 points to lift the title.
Ahead of their fourth and last game of the tournament, CZ held the No 1 spot with 16 points while their opposition in the last encounter, West Zone were at No 2 with 11 points and needed a victory to displace the table-toppers. However, CZ dominated the proceedings after winning the toss in Raipur and finished with a first innings lead in the drawn game to claim the title.
The CZ spinners – Ekta Bisht (3/20), Rajeshwari Gayakwad (2/21) and Poonam Yadav (2/32) - then skittled out West Zone for 114 to help their team seize a solid 91-run lead.
Building on the lead, the CZ middle-order made useful contributions to set the opponents a stiff 251-run target. Mona Meshram opening the innings for CZ was sent back for eight by Dakshini while R Dabhi followed up with the wicket of Raut, who had come to the crease at No 3 to leave the side on 37 for two. However, Nuzhat Parween anchored the innings to take the side to 159 for five until Mithali declared the innings. The wicketkeeper-bat scored an unbeaten 55, while Pallavi Bharadwaj made 32 and Thirushkamini opening the innings contributed 31.
Defending the total, Bisht dealt the first blow to leave WZ on 18 for one. She bowled Y Bhatia to set the ball rolling. The spinners then continued to claim wickets at regular intervals as they pursued victory. While Jemimah R (45 off 100) at the top of the order and Patil (72* off 108) lower down order showed resistance to keep the innings in the fray, the CZ spinners wreaked havoc. Gayakwad picked four for 51, while Bisht took two and Yadav and Raut claimed a wicket each as they left WZ on 157 for eight until the match ended in a draw.
With 21 wickets apiece, Bisht and Gayakwad finished at the top two positions in the wicket-takers list.
CZ had begun their campaign with a thumping win against East Zone. The innings and 76-run win gave then seven points (one point bonus). Raut had starred in the game with a 145-run knock while Gayakwad and Deepti had claimed five-wicket hauls in EZ’s first and second innings respectively.
The Mithali-led team then posted a nine-wicket win against South Zone and followed it up with a first innings lead in a drawn match against North Zone. The consistent performances helped them finish at the top of the table and finish the season on a high note.