A late Bengal collapse triggered by Abhimanyu Mithun helped defending champions Karnataka to the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. With five wickets in hand and only 13 runs needed off 14 deliveries, Bengal were set to make it to the final when Mithun dismissed a well-set Subhajit Banerjee. The wicket broke the 41-run stand between Banerjee and Saurasish Lahiri (24 off 15) that had taken only 22 balls and had tilted the scales in favour of Bengal.
Two more wickets went down in the 49th over bowled by Vinay Kumar to turn the equation for Bengal to a tricky nine off six balls with two wickets remaining. But Mithun ensured Karnataka closed the doors on Bengal by picking up both the wickets and ensuring a six-run win.
Bengal had controlled most parts of the game. They won the toss, sent Karnataka in and restricted the strong batting line-up. Robin Uthappa (36), Manish Pandey (32), Stuart Binny (50) and Karun Nair (41), all got starts to their innings but were all dismissed before they could do deeper damage. Ashok Dinda picked up two wickets, Veer Pratap Singh picked three and Iresh Saxena was miserly in his 10-over spell. However, Vinay led a late riposte and added an unbeaten 46 with Mithun, the No. 11 to transform a below-par total into a challenging one.
Bengal were undeterred. Their top order responded strongly - with fifties for Manoj Tiwary and in-form Sudip Chaterjee - as they reached 175 for 2 in the 39th over. But the tide starting turning with the fall of Tiwary to a run-out and finally consumed Bengal as they lost their last five wickets for six runs.
Patient fifties from Amitoze Singh and Mandeep Singh helped Punjab cruise into the final with a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Odisha in Ahmedabad. Chasing 239, Punjab crossed the target with a six in the 49th over which took the unbeaten partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Taruwar Kohli to 64.
Put in to bat, Odisha were led by fifties from Natraj Behera and Arabind Singh. Natraj (61) put on 61 for the second wicket with Anurag Sarangi, which was followed by Arabind's 100-ball 89. Odisha were 128 for 4 after 35 overs but Arabind first took them past 200 and with Abhilash Mallick's 26-ball 36, later lifted them to 238 as they scored 110 runs in the last 15 overs.
Punjab's only stutter was the early loss of Manan Vohra in the third over before Amitoze and Mandeep got together for their dominating stand of 167 in 34.1 overs. Even though both batsmen fell in successive overs, Yuvraj (26*) and Taruwar (35*) steered them past 238 with nine balls to spare. Mandeep fell for 81 off 93, after hitting seven fours and a six, and Amitoze was run-out for 91, which featured eight fours and a six.
Punjab and Karnataka will play the final on Tuesday in Ahmedabad.