Punjab knock out lacklustre Mumbai
Punjab 124 for 5 (Madan 55, Abdulla 3-20) beat Mumbai 122 for 9 (Rahane 21, Gony 3-32, Sharma 2-15) by five wickets
Notwithstanding a mini collapse late in their innings, an aggressive half-century from Chandan Madan helped Punjab knock out Mumbai and enter the final against Baroda, to be played tomorrow. Madan started aggressively, was dropped on 21, but stayed calm thereafter to stitch a match-winning 60-run partnership for the third wicket with Mandeep Singh.
With five overs to go, Punjab needed just 18 runs. But what seemed a formality, almost turned into an ordeal for Punjab as Iqbal Abdulla, Mumbai's leading spinner, provided a late twist to the second semi-final, at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground. Off the fourth delivery in his third over, Abdulla lured Mandeep Singh with a flighted ball outside the offstump, which he pushed straight into the hands of Rohit Sharma at short extra-cover. Two balls later, Abdulla got the prized wicket of Madan when he drew the batsman out of his crease with a ball that dipped and then turned away. Aditya Tare, the Mumbai wicketkeeper, snapped the bails easily.
Abdulla, who had taken two wickets in the quarter-final against Tamil Nadu, stuck another blow in his final over when the left-handed Bipul Sharma swept him in the air. Dhawal Kulkarni covered a good ten yards to complete a neat catch in the deep and pump some late adrenalin into the match.
But Amitoze Singh slog-swept Mumbai's second left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan for a six in the 18th over to push Punjab nine runs closer to victory. He followed it up with a straight hit over the bowler's head for four in the 19th over off Ajit Agarkar. With seven balls to go, Taruwar Kohli dispatched a low full-toss from Agarkar for a boundary past mid-off to win the game.
Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni would be an unhappy man considering Mumbai finished second to Punjab in all areas of the game. Madan had started confidently against the new ball and found the medium pace from the pair of Kulkarni and Javed Khan easy to hit. A couple of pull-shots and some strong flicks pushed him into the 20s. On 21, though, he tried to hit Khan over Suryakumar Yadav at mid-off but mistimed his shot completely. Unfortunately, for Mumbai, Yadav spilled a dolly. He had let a ball through his legs in the previous over too, leaving Khan exasperated.
But it was the failure of Mumbai's batsmen that proved the difference between the two sides. Wasim Jaffer cut to a wide delivery from Manpreet Gony straight into the hands of the point fielder; Abhishek Nayar limped out of the ground after being run-out and Ajinkya Rahane was beaten in flight to a turning ball from left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma that pegged his off-stump back.
At 42 for 3 after seven overs, Mumbai were reliant on the pair of Rohit Sharma and Yadav. Rohit Sharma started fluently with two boundaries off Amitoze ; a back-foot punch behind square and then a pull over midwicket. Yadav, too, got into the groove easily with his favourite stroke, the sweep, against Bipul, which raced to the square-leg boundary.
Yadav was not in the mood to wait as he welcomed Harbhajan Singh with a reverse-swept four. But going for a suicidal single, Yadav was beaten by a fine throw from Mandeep. Ten runs later, Rohit Sharma went for a casual loft against Rahul Sharma, holing out to Amitoze Singh at long-off. Mumbai then lost five quick wickets for the addition of just 22 runs, thereby losing the plot.
Edited by Devashish Fuloria
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo