Zimbabwe President's XI captain Hamilton Masakadza's unbeaten century went in vain as East Zone thrashed the visitors by an innings and 17 runs to enter the Duleep Trophy final in Mumbai on Sunday.
Zimbabwe XI, needing to score 207 to make East bat again, slumped to 189 all out on the third and penultimate day of the league clash after starting the day at 2 for none.
Masakadza, who came to the crease one-down at the fall of opener T Duffin, remained unconquered on 103 after his 233-minute stay at the wicket.
The powerfully built African smashed 13 boundaries and a six and played some splendid drives in front of the wicket to unnerve the hosts. But there was none to support him at the other end as rest of the batsmen succumbed to the spin duo of Shahbaz Nadeem and Sourash Lahiri just before tea.
East Zone's resounding victory propelled them to the November 12-16 title-clash against West Zone at Ahmedabad.
The latter had defeated Central Zone by seven wickets in another league clash at Aurangabad.
While Mazakadza was the unsung hero for the visiting team, which had been similarly beaten by an innings by North Zone in their league opener, East's heroes for the day were their spin twins Shahbaz Nadeem of Jharkhand and Bengal's Sourash Lahiri who shared eight wickets equally between them.
While Nadeem got through the top order of the Zimbabwe XI second innings with his left arm orthodox slow bowling, off-spinner Lahiri nipped at the tail.
At the end, Masakadza remained the lone visitors' batsman to shine brightly, while only four other batsmen reached double figures.
Masakadza could have been snapped up before he completed his century in 203 minutes and 145 balls when he offered catches on 91 and 98. Both were grassed.
However, he batted in a forthright manner and showed that the wicket, described later by East skipper Sourav Ganguly as a good cricket track, was ideal for stroke-making while giving help to seam bowlers as well as spinners in equal measure.
The Zimbabwe XI captain later said that his team members need to learn how to bat well in the opening session of these first class matches as in both the games it was the clatter of wickets in the initial stages of their first innings which cost them the match.
Ganguly, after refusing to speak to the media persons on anything other than the match, said that he did not need an extra motivation in playing in the last two domestic ties at Rajkot and here.
"It was a good cricket wicket where the pace bowlers did well in the first innings and the spinners did well in the second. It had some bounce too. I have not encountered flat tracks in the last four domestic matches I have played," he told reporters after leading East to a thumping victory on way to the final.
Zimbabwe XI (Ist innings): 156
East Zone (Ist innings): 362
Zimbabwe XI (2nd innings): (overnight 2 for 0)
T Duffin run out 15
N Ferreira c A Das b Nadeem 9
H Masakadza not out 103
D Ibrahim c Saravanan b Nadeem 4
B Taylor c and b Nadeem 1
C Coventry c Paul b Nadeem 10
B Mahwire lbw b Ganguly 2
P Utseya c S S Das b Lahiri 17
A Ireland b Lahiri 0
G Cremer lbw b Lahiri 23
W Mwayenga lbw b Lahiri 0
Extras (nb 5) 5
Total (all out in 67.1 overs, 293 mins) 189
Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-27, 3-37, 4-51, 5-65, 6-79, 7-143, 8-143, 9-185.
Bowling: Paul 10-2-35-0, Bose 7-2-29-0, Lahiri 17.1-4-34-4, Nadeem 28-10-67-4, Ganguly 5-0-24-1.