They might have notched a narrow two-wicket win over Vidarbha in their final Group A Super League match, but that was not enough for Kerala to keep their chances of making the final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Chasing 106 for victory, Kerala needed to reach their 106-run target in 15.1 overs to match the net run rate of Mumbai, who would play Baroda in the final Group A tie in the afternoon. In the end, Kerala huffed and puffed over the finishing line with eight balls to spare.
Failing to show the urgency proved dearly for Kerala, who, having elected to field, maintained a tight control over the opposition batsmen. The medium pace pairing of Niyas Nizar (3 for 14) and Manu Krishnan (3 for 27) dominated the Vidarbha batsmen, who scored at an astoundingly slow rate. Urvesh Patel top scored with 28 as Vidarbha were bowled out for 105 in the final over.
Kerala might have fancied an easy win but Vidarbha kept the interest alive when Swapnil Bandiwar trapped Kerala opener Sanju Samson leg before in the very first over. But Rohan Prem, the tournament's best batsman, made sure Kerala stayed in the hunt for the final.
But the Kerala batsmen panicked as the Vidarbha bowlers offered no loose deliveries to make the contest a tight one. The Akshays - off spinner Wakhare (3 for 26) and Karnewar, the ambidextrous spinner (3.4-1-14-1) had Kerala's lower order in a spot of bother as Vidarbha suddenly sniffed a possible tie if not a win as the match entered the final fiver overs.
That said, Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal would curse his decision to delay bringing in Karnewar with his unique gift of bowling left-arm spin to right-handers and off spin to left handers once again befuddled the opposition batsmen, but it was not enough as Vidarbha tried hard to defend a small total.