Seamers bowl Uttar Pradesh to final
Uttar Pradesh 188 (Kaif 80, Maniar 6-88) and 100 (Dhurv 5-20) beat Saurashtra 127 (Shah 57, Praveen Kumar 4-40, Tyagi 4-49) and 113 (Kotak 52, Praveen Kumar 4-39, Tyagi 4-42) by 48 runs
For 33 tense minutes, Uttar Pradesh struggled for a wicket - grassing a catch and missing two run-out opportunities - before grabbing the three needed to beat Saurashtra, by 48 runs, and reach the Ranji Trophy final for the second time in three years.
The day started with Saurashtra needing 69 runs with three wickets in hand, but they could only manage 20 in 12.5 overs. Sudeep Tyagi and Praveen Kumar bowled unchanged, not giving away any free runs, never letting Saurashtra feel they were within striking distance. Praveen Kumar took the first two wickets, while Tyagi splayed Shitanshu Kotak's stumps to finish the match and trigger frantic celebrations.
Two shies at the stumps in the first few overs would have found Kotak short had they hit. And when Tyagi induced an edge, Ravikant Shukla dropped a regulation catch at third slip. However, with the runs not flowing for Saurashtra, UP kept persisting and Praveen Kumar finally got an edge off Kamlesh Makvana, which was caught low in front of first slip by wicketkeeper Amir Khan. Makvana had battled for close to an hour scoring 13 and adding 40 for the eighth wicket with Kotak.
In his next over, Praveen Kumar squared Sandeep Jobanputra up and took the top of off stump to make it nine down. With UP scenting victory, Kotak chose to trust the No. 11 Sandip Maniar. UP didn't have top go for a defensive field as Saurashtra didn't show the intent to go for quick runs, which ideally should have been the case. Kotak reached his half-century with a couple through the covers, but Tyagi produced a fast yorker that beat Kotak's high backlift.
The match, one of the shortest semi-finals ever, ended in less than seven sessions, and will be remembered for the batsmen's lack of application. Seamers Maniar, Jobanputra, Tyagi and Praveen Kumar exploited the conditions well, taking between them 28 of the 40 wickets to fall. With eight wickets from the match, Tyagi moved into the second place on the wicket-takers' list with 39 wickets. He's now one behind R Vinay Kumar, whose team Karnataka have already been knocked out.
After making a confident start to the match, Saurashtra lost their way, just as they did the last time they reached the semi-finals, when they were beaten by Delhi by eight wickets in 1980-81.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo.