Cheteshwar Pujara starred with an unbeaten 53 as eight-time champions West Zone thrashed minnows Zimbabwe President's XI by six wickets to comfortably sail into the final of the Zonal One-Dayers for Deodhar Trophy in Cuttack on Monday.
Electing to bat, the touring Zimbabwe side never had it easy against the heavyweights West who came up with a tidy bowling performance to restrict the visitors to 176 for nine in their stipulated 50 overs at Barabati Stadium.
Chasing the paltry total, West rode on an unbeaten 53 by Cheteshwar Pujara to romp home in 38.1 overs in their Group B encounter. With five points from the match, they ended the league stage at the top of Group B table with 10 points.
West began on a cautious note with their openers Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane opting to take time to settle down.
But the pair failed to click yet again with the former India glovesman Parthiv (7) becoming the victim of Elton Chigumbura in 7.2 overs at the team's score of 27.
With Zimbabwe displaying some casual fielding courtesy C Mpofu who dropped Rahane off Graham Cremer, West closed in on the target.
Rahane (41) steadied the innings with Pujara sharing 40 runs for the second wicket before the former departed having faced 49 balls.
Bhavin Thaker (28) and skipper Jaffer (12), who came down the order, fell cheaply but Pujara held on to his responsible knock and shared the match winning partnership with his Saurahstra teammate Ravindra Jadeja (28 not out).
The Saurashtra allrounder, Jadeja, took charge on the hapless Zimbabwe President's side attack hitting three sixes and one four from 13 balls as West romped home with five points.
The inexperienced Zimbabwe side struggled against the tidy bowling of West Zone who even without a medium-pacer short maintained their tidy attack.
West suffered an early jolt when their strike bowler Jitendra Patil twisted his ankle in the 3.2 over of the innings and could not field anymore.
The Maharashtra mediumpacer has been ruled out of the final and is going back home, said West Zone coach Debu Mitra.
Part-time medium pacer Abhishek Nayar replaced Patil but they managed to tighten the Zimbabawe run-rate as the touring side never had a good going.
With run-rate hovering around three mark, Zimbabwe could score 44 for one after 15 overs.
Leg spinner Iqbal Abdulla was the most successful West bowler, claiming three for 28 from his nine overs. However, it was seamer Ravindra Jadeja who gave some tough time to the Zimbabwe side, conceding just 27 runs from his quota of 10 overs. Jadeja bagged two wickets.
For Zimbabwe President's XI, Stuart Matsikenyeri scored a defiant 44 from 74 balls.
In fact, it was the duo of Matsikenyeri-Regis Chakava (30) who repaired the Zimbabwe innings from 55 for three to 130 for four.
Abdulla claimed Regis to break the partnership, while Jadeja scalped the top-scorer Matsikenyeri before the Zimbabwean could make it bit as the scorecard was reduced to 130 for five in no time.
Wickets kept on tumbling as the touring party managed 46 runs from the last 10 overs to give an easy 177 run target to West in the stipulated 50 overs.
The final to decide the winners of 36th Prof DB Deodhar Trophy will be held on March 18 at Barabati Stadium.