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Negi and Saini the heroes as Delhi win thriller

Delhi 200 for 8 (Negi 39*, Rana 39, Anand 3-39) beat Jharkhand 199 (Virat 71, Saini 4-30) by two wickets

Navdeep Saini's four-wicket haul and Pawan Negi's unbeaten 39 helped Delhi sneak into the final of Vijay Hazare Trophy in a low-scoring thriller against Jharkhand. Chasing 200, Delhi were cruising at 123 for 4 at one stage, but Jharkhand bounced back with quick wickets to make it 149 for 8. Eventually, it took an unbeaten 51-run stand for the ninth wicket between Negi and Saini to secure Delhi's victory with only two balls to spare.

Saini's 4 for 30 had helped Delhi bowl Jharkhand out for 199. It could have been worse for Jharkhand had Virat Singh not scored a fighting 91-ball 71 to help them recover from 85 for 6. The left-hand batsman stitched two crucial partnerships - 55 with Shahbaz Nadeem for the seventh wicket and 44 with Rahul Shukla for the ninth - as the last four wickets contributed 114.

In response, Delhi started positively, with Unmukt Chand hitting Varun Aaron for four boundaries in eight balls, but he fell off the next one, trying to hit out again. Gambhir and Shorey steadied the innings - helped in part by a hamstring injury to Shuka. The new-ball bowler left the field having bowled only six deliveries.

Having got past fifty, Delhi were pegged back again as part-time medium-pacer Anand Singh removed Shorey for 15. Then Gambhir was wrongly given out caught-behind down the leg side with replays showing the ball had only brushed the pad. Two overs later, Anand had Himmat Singh stumped, thanks to captain Ishan Kishan's skill to dislodge the bails just when the batsman lifted his foot. Delhi were suddenly 87 for 4.

Rana and Pranshu Vijayran got together and put on a 36-run fifth-wicket stand even as Kishan - with two left-hand batsmen in the middle - held back his left-arm spinners Nadeem and Anukul Roy.

However, it was Nadeem who tilted the game in Jharkhand's favour by having Rana caught at first slip for 39. Wickets kept tumbling after that and when Roy removed Lalit Yadav, Delhi were eight down and they still needed 51 more for victory.

What worked in their favour was that there were still 73 balls left in the game, which allowed Negi and Saini to calmly inch them towards the target. With three needed from the last over, Jaskaran Singh gave Jharkhand one last hope by bowling two dot balls. But Negi slogged the third over midwicket for a couple to level the scores before he carved the next over the covers to book Delhi's spot in the final, against Mumbai, on Saturday.

In the morning, Saini and Khejroliya had Jharkhand on the back foot right from the start - literally and figuratively. They used the short ball to good effect, surprising the batsmen regularly with skiddy bounce.

Saini dismissed the in-form Kishan for a duck in the first over of the match. The opener came down the track but couldn't reach to the pitch of the ball and ended up edging it behind.

Khejroliya too was rewarded for some disciplined bowling. Shasheem Rathour tried to put him off his length by charging at him, only to sky the ball to extra cover where Himmat back-pedaled to take a comfortable catch.

Saini was taken off after a four-over spell but sensing the pressure building up, Gambhir brought him back in the 12th over. The fast bowler repaid his captain's trust by dismissing Saurabh Tiwary and reduced Jharkhand to 35 for 3. Kumar Deobrat didn't last long either and feathered a Saini bouncer to the wicketkeeper Chand.

Anand tried to hold the innings together and struck some delectable boundaries in between. But it was the lack of strike-rotation that was hurting Jharkhand. And when Anand too departed for an 80-ball 36 - nicking one off Khejroliya - Jharkhand were struggling at 74 for 5.

Nadeem then joined hands with Virat and the two started dealing in singles. Khejroliya was reintroduced in the 34th over, but Virat welcomed him with successive fours. He and Nadeem took the side to 140 before Nadeem was bowled by Rana for 29. Virat was the last man dismissed in the penultimate over. However, he could take Jharkhand only to a competitive total, and not a match-winning one.