Mandeep fifty upstages Services
Mandeep Singh's well-paced 83 guided Punjab closer to the North-Zone finals as they beat Services by 98 runs. The big loss meant Services' net run rate fell below that of Punjab and Delhi - they had been topping the table until this round of matches - and will need a win in the final round on Thursday to make the zonal finals.*
Mandeep arrived in the eighth over and shepherded the innings along, but support from the other end was a luxury. Sunny Sohal (43) and Taruwar Kohli (38) were the other contributions that pushed the total to 232. Gurinder Singh and Siddarth Kaul then limited the Services batsmen, and their best performance was Nakul Verma's 41. The top order failed and the middle order could not consolidate on their starts as Punjab secured victory in under 40 overs.
Delhi's bowlers orchestrated a squeeze of Haryana to set up a six-wicket win. Sunil Narwal and Pawan Negi took two wickets each and none of the bowlers went at more than 5.25 runs per over. Bhupinder Lingwal struck a valiant 65-ball 51 to help Haryana reach 200.
Haryana medium pacers Joginder Sharma and Harshal Patel contrived to make the chase tricky by dismissing the Delhi top order cheaply, including captain Gautam Bambir for 20. But an unhurried 96-run stand between Mithun Manhas (68) and Milind Kumar (70*) ensured there were no further glitches.
Jammu & Kashmir lost their fourth straight game, to Himachal Pradesh, by 49 runs. Himachal batted and their innings was built around 99 from Nikhil Gangta - he was out lbw to left-arm spinner Waseem Raza one short of a maiden List A ton.
J&K's reply never seemed to really take off. Several batsmen got into double digits, but none kicked on - it didn't help that there were a couple of run-outs in the middle order. Eventually, they fell well short, out for 180 in 43 overs.
Given Railways' superior net run rate, the match between Uttar Pradesh and Vidarbha was a virtual semi-final. Vidarbha came out the better team on the day, securing the No. 1 spot on the table, a place in the zonal finals against Railways and a chance to compete in the nationals. UP's innings of 268 for 6 was built around brisk half-centuries from Mohammad Kaif and Rinku Singh. However, a massive opening stand from Vidarbha's openers, Faiz Fazal and Jitesh Sharma, all but closed out the match. The pair put on 183, with Jitesh completing a century. After they were dismissed, UP struck a couple of blows, but the result was hardly in doubt. Vidarbha got home with six wickets and 23 balls to spare.
The Madhya Pradesh v Rajasthan match was inconsequential when it came to places in the zonal finals, but both teams would not have wanted to end the tournament without a win. Rajasthan were the ones to tick that box. They shot out MP for 164, the bowlers sharing the wickets around, and then eased to victory - albeit having lost half their side - with nine overs to spare. Puneet Yadav was the anchor in the chase, with 56 not out off 73 balls.
In perhaps what is the most closely contested group, Bengal, whose net run rate is a problem for them, kept their hopes of progression alive with a win against Tripura. Shreevats Goswami (84) and Sudip Chatterjee's (71) hit attacking half-centuries and their 111-run stand for the second wicket all but sealed the chase after Tripura could only post 199. Ashok Dinda and Iresh Saxena were vital contributors as they managed economy with effectiveness as they took five wickets between them. Opener Udiyan Bose was the only batsman who posed any resistance with a 105-ball 76. Tripura, with only one victory from four matches, are effectively out of the tournament.
Jharkhand secured a crucial four points against Assam, via a seven-wicket win. The match had been reduced to a 49-overs-a-side contest due to the weather, and Assam got to a very competitive 262 for 7 on the back of a century from Dheeraj Jadhav. Jadhav was supported knocks of 40-something from Parvez Aziz and Gokul Sharma. But then Assam's hopes of getting to the top of the table with a round of matches to play were steadily eaten away by a strong showing from Jharkhand's top order. Ishank Jaggi scored 88, Virat Singh made 53 and Ashish Yadav supported them with 47 to set up the chase, before Kumar Deobrat and Saurabh Tiwary finished things off, taking the team across the line and to No. 1 on the points.
An all-round effort from Tamil Nadu saw them make little work of Karnataka, cruising to a seven-wicket win in Bangalore in what was essentially a dress rehearsal for the South Zone final.
Karnataka, batting first, could only muster 168 as three wickets apiece from Rahil Shah and Lakshmipathy Balaji helped bundle the team out in 40.3 overs. Tamil Nadu lost Baba Aparajith and the in-form Murali Vijay early in the chase, but a 144-run stand for the third wicket between Umashankar Sushil and S Badrinath helped take Tamil Nadu home in 38.5 overs. Sushil struck eight fours during his 73, while Badrinath's unbeaten 81 included nine fours.
Andhra were three down inside 11 overs of their chase, but Sai Krishna (61 not out) and Bhui (74 not out) put up and unbroken stand of 121 for the fourth wicket to seal the win with 13 overs remaining. Kerala, earlier put in to bat, were unable to gather any momentum in their innings. Pallam Anfal top-scored with an unbeaten 89, but only three batsmen reached double digits as Andhra bowled Kerala out in 46.4 overs.
A stellar batting display from Hyderabad, led by Dwaraka Ravi Teja and Ashish Reddy helped the team edge Goa by one wicket with two balls to spare in Bangalore. Chasing 291, Ravi Teja (87) and Ashish (62 not out) both scored half-centuries, and Hanuma Vihari chipped in with 45 to complete Hyderabad's win. Harshad Hanumant Gadekar was the pick of Goa's bowlers and finished with 4 for 73, but it wasn't enough to restrict Hyderabad.
Goa, batting first, had earlier made 289 for 7 on the back of centuries from Sagun Kamat (112) and Keenan Vaz (111), and their 182-run association for the third wicket. Ravi Kiran shone for Hyderabad, taking five wickets from his 12 overs.
Saurashtra's first victory of the tournament was not enough to knock Gujarat off their top spot in the West Zone table. Jaydev Shah (76) and Arpit Vasavada (72) resurrected a minor wobble to keep a chase of 210 under control, a minor consolation as their side exits the tournament. Gujarat's batsmen would have rued their own inability to push on after making starts. As many as seven of them reached the 20-mark but none of them reached 30 as Abhishek Bhat claimed 3 for 38 and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja took two as well. Despite the loss though, Gujarat are assured of a place in the final owing a higher run-rate.
Baroda sealed their place in the West Zone final with a 50-run win against Maharashtra in Rajkot. The victory was built on the back of a stellar batting display, led by a century from Kedar Devdhar (103), as well as fifties from Aditya Waghmode (88) and Yusuf Pathan (66). Shrikant Mundhe took a hat-trick for Maharashtra, but Baroda nonetheless went on to post a daunting 334 for 9.
Ankit Bawne led the chase by scoring 97 and put up 130 for the fifth wicket with Nikhil Naik who blasted a quick 78. However, apart from those two, the team had very little to show for as the loss of wickets at regular intervals hampered their run-rate. Lukman Meriwala finished with 3 for 61 to dismiss Maharashtra for 284.
*0800GMT, March 6: The report had incorrectly said Services are out of contention for the zonal finals. This has been changed.