Hyderabad and Maharashtra seal knockout berths
On a closely-fought and tense final day in Nagpur, Hyderabad qualified for the knockouts based on a better run-rate against hosts Vidarbha. Hyderabad began the day in a good position, at 216 for 3, but both teams would have entertained hopes of going through. The determination of Hyderabad's batsmen won out in the end, and they batted out the day. Though they didn't gain a first-innings lead, they also didn't get bowled out and their score of 486 for 8 in 166 overs came at a rate of 2.92 an over, marginally more than Vidarbha's 2.77 for their 531 in 191.1 overs.
The stars for Hyderabad on the final day came from their middle and lower order. Arjun Yadav, unbeaten on 91 overnight, progressed to make 128 and his partner Bavanaka Sandeep finished with 78. The pair fell within 47 runs of each other, and at 297 for 5, Vidarbha had the upper hand and were in with a chance of bowling out Hyderabad. But the batsmen fought on.
Syed Qadri contributed 99 and was run out, agonisingly, short of a century. In the company of wicketkeeper Ibrahim Khaleel, he added 130 for the sixth wicket and played a critical role in steering Hyderabad towards safety. The pair went about their work slowly, however, and things got difficult for Hyderabad when they lost Qadri, Khaleel and Mohammed Khader in quick succession. 427 for 5 became 449 for 8, and with more than five overs still left in the day, Vidarbha had regained control. But, on a day of twists and turns, Hyderabad prevailed. Batting at No.8, Pagadala Naidu made a quickfire, unbeaten 29, off 28 balls, and added an unbeaten 37 off 32 balls with No.10 Lalith Mohan, who made 17 in 19. The duo took Hyderabad to the close, at a rate superior to that of their opponents, and in to the knockouts.
Maharashtra booked their place in the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals, qualifying to the knockout phase based on a first-innings lead against Himachal Pradesh in Pune. Having bowled out HP for 236 on the third day and stretched the lead to 215, Maharashtra went about continuing their dominance in the contest and batted out the final day.
HP's only hope would have been to trigger a dramatic collapse that would give them an outside chance of a win, but that didn't happen. The opening combination of Harshad Khadiwale and Chirag Khurana led the way for Maharashtra, adding 166. Khadiwale's had a quiet season thus far and his first century this Ranji Trophy should give him plenty of confidence heading into the knockouts. The only consolation for HP on the final day was a four-wicket haul for offspinner Gurvinder Singh. Maharashtra finished with 288 for 5 and sealed their place in the top eight.