Mumbai and Assam continue domination
Mumbai continued to keep winning, making light work of Saurashtra at the Poona Club Ground. Mumbai captain Wasim Jaffer led with a brilliant 95 off 61 balls, after they were put in by Saurashtra. He hammered 13 fours and two sixes and was involved in a third-wicket stand of 97 with Rohit Sharma, who smashed four fours and two sixes during his quickfire 41. Ajit Agarkar's late cameo (25 off 14 balls) meant Mumbai ended on a massive 191, as Sandip Maniar picked up 3 for 32. Saurashtra never really recovered from Dhawal Kulkarani's twin strikes early on during the reply. Even though Samir Qureshi managed a fighting 33 off 24 balls, including two fours and two sixes, it was not enough as Mumbai ran out winners by 63 runs.
Both teams were coming off losses to Mumbai in their previous games, but Irshad Sindhi and Yusuf Pathan ensured Baroda took the honours against Gujarat at the Deccan Gymkhana Ground in Pune. Batting first, Gujarat piled on 176, thanks to a lone hand by Niraj Patel. The No. 3 batsman dealt mostly in boundaries during his 61-ball 96, carting the bowlers for ten fours and five sixes. Struggling at 29 for 2 during the reply, Sindhi and Pathan propelled the Baroda innings with a third-wicket partnership of 122. Sindhi struck six fours and seven sixes during his breezy 88, while Pathan took just 21 balls for his 52, hitting two fours and six sixes en route. Even as both fell with victory in sights, wicketkeeper Pinal Shah and Shailesh Solanki saw them through in 18.2 overs.
Assam held firm to top spot on the points table with a closely-fought win against Tripura at the Tata Digwadih Stadium in Dhanbad. A 54-run opening stand between Parvez Aziz and wicketkeeper Abhijit Roy set the perfect platform for Assam after they chose to bat. Dheeraj Jadhav (40 off 35 balls) and Deepak Sharma (33 off 21 balls) made full use of the start to lift Assam to 154. The Tripura batsmen, who have had a torrid time during the tournament, put on an improved show during the chase. With openers Nishit Shetty and Wilkin Mota putting on 99, it perhaps signalled a turn in fortunes. Shetty hit three fours and a six during a quick 30, while Mota's 50 off 40 balls was studded with four boundaries and two sixes. But there was little contribution from the lower order, as the Assam bowlers led by Pritam Das and Dhiraj Goswami, with two wickets apiece, denied them victory.
Bengal were consigned to their second defeat on the trot, thanks to a disciplined performance from the Jharkhand bowlers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Dhanbad. Put in by Jharkhand, the Bengal batsmen couldn't get their act together and managed a paltry 95 for 7. Right-arm fast bowler Varun Aaron and offspinner Sunny Gupta were the most successful bowlers for Jharkhand with two wickets each. Captain Saurabh Tiwary and Rajiv Kumar then shepherded the Jharkhand chase after a couple of hiccups. Tiwary departed after a run-a-ball 44, including five fours and a six but Rajiv held firm with a patient 31, to seal the seven-wicket win with nine balls to spare.
Haryana bagged their first points of the tournament after thumping Services by 80 runs at the Palam B Ground in Delhi. After Haryana had compiled 153 on being sent in, their bowlers shot Services out for 73. Haryana openers Rahul Dewan and Ankit Rawat provided a solid start before cameos by wicketkeeper Nitin Sahni, Pardeep Sahu and Joginder Sharma lifted them to a challenging total. While Billa struck the initial blows during the Services chase, he was ably backed by the spin duo of Amaradeep Bankelal Sonkar and Yuzvendra Chahal, who picked up two wickets apiece. Billa returned to pick up the final wicket of Rakesh Sharma in the last over, to end with 3 for 10.
Three wickets apiece for Manpreet Gony and Reetinder Sodhi helped Punjab overcome Jammu & Kashmir by 18 runs in a low-scoring tie at the Palam A Ground. Choosing to bat, Punjab managed 114 with Sunny Sohal and wicketkeeper Chandan Madan managing crucial 20s. Samiullah Beigh starred with the ball for J&K, ending with 4-0-18-3. J&K's chase got off on the wrong foot with Sodhi and Gony accounting for the top three in quick time. Sodhi then went on to pick up two important middle-order wickets to dent J&K further. Abid Ali managed 23 before becoming Gony's third victim, as Punjab completed the formalities with an over to spare.
A strong showing by the Himachal Pradesh batsmen coupled with Sarandeep Singh's 3 for 20 spoilt Delhi's unbeaten run. Batting first at the Palam A Ground, Himachal were off to a horror start, losing Bhavin Thakkar off the second ball of the match. But that set the stage for Sangram Singh (42) and Vikramjeet Malik (48), who added 64 runs. Captain Paras Dogra's near run-a-ball 31 and a cameo from VA Indulkar (14 off 5) took them to a strong 153. Delhi looked in command during the reply, with the openers, led by Farman Ahmed, putting on 78 by the ninth over. Farman scored a 33-ball 43, including seven fours and a six, before falling to Sarandeep. Having taken out the top three Delhi batsmen, Sarandeep made way for Ashok Thakur, who struck two more blows. Three run-outs didn't help Delhi's cause as they narrowly missed out by five runs.
Faiz Fazal's fluent fifty helped Railways climb to first place in the table with a seven-wicket win against Vidarbha at the Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground in Indore. Vidarbha were found wanting against the Railways seamers, slipping to 32 for 3, before a half-century stand between captain Alind Naidu (21) and Shalabh Shrivastava (38) propped them up. But the regular fall of wickets after that meant Vidarbha could only cobble together 133, with Sanjay Bangar picking up 2 for 33. Fazal provided a solid start to the chase, with a 51-ball 55, comprising six boundaries, and adding 42 with ICL returnee TP Singh (25). Vidarbha sensed a chance at 116 for 6, but wicketkeeper Dhiran Salvi and Jai Prakash Yadav saw them through in 18.1 overs.