Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Uttar Pradesh 163 for 7 (Prashant 49, Raina 47, Bhargav 2-12) beat Baroda 125 for 7 (Rajpoot 3-30, Kuldeep 2-12) by 38 runsScorecard and ball-by-ball details
Uttar Pradesh brushed Baroda aside to win their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy by 38 runs. Defending a par score of 163, UP snatched control and never lost it in the middle overs as left-arm chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and legspinner Piyush Chawla beguiled the opposition with variations.
Having made the final in 2013-14, UP were hungry to put their name on the trophy. Baroda, two-time champions, elected to field and would have fancied a third title. They had been victors at the Wankhede stadium in two Super League matches and as they had done then, Baroda were chasing again. But UP proved smarter and emerged champions with a flawless record this season - nine matches, nine victories.
Although Baroda had got off to a brisk start, scoring 20 runs off the first two overs, the key was to maintain that tempo. Kedar Devdhar, who had hit three boundaries in Amit Mishra's first over could not resist a short, wide delivery outside the off stump and paid the price by cutting into the hands of Akshdeep Nath at point.
In walked Hardik Pandya, one of the headline makers in the tournament. He began with two sweetly timed straight drives to bookend an over from Amit Mishra. Pandya had played possibly the innings of the tournament, an explosive 46-ball 86 against Vidarbha in Baroda's first Super League match at the same ground. Today Baroda would have expected the same from the allrounder, but he was all at sea against Kuldeep.
Facing the first ball from Kuldeep, Pandya failed to read the googly and was hit in the box. Next ball, a casual wristy push against a back-of-a-length delivery went straight into the hands of the bowler. The strong crowd, which took advantage of free entry in the eastern section of the Wankhede, heaved a loud sigh of disappointment as they were expecting fireworks from Pandya.
Suresh Raina, the UP captain, operated Chawla and Kuldeep in tandem in the middle overs, which were fast-paced and left the Baroda batsmen stranded . Not just teammates at UP, both spinners also play for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. They knew their plan well. It was simply to keep the runs down; Chawla, one of the highest wicket-takers among Indian bowlers in Twenty20 cricket, said he had never seen a team score 60 runs off the last five overs.
In the eight overs they bowled together Chawla (4-0-16-0) and Kuldeep (4-0-12-2) conceded only 28 runs while taking two wickets. Both bowlers mixed their deliveries well, disguised their googlies expertly and left the Baroda batsmen in a daze. Even the pair of hard hitting allrounders - Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda - looked puzzled and totally inept at pushing the run rate.
Hooda had scored a good half century in the previous must-win match against Mumbai, but had failed to finish the game as Baroda's tail huffed and puffed to pull off a late victory. Today too, Hooda, playing from deep in the crease, tried to loft Kuldeep over long on, but only managed to get the ball as far as Prashant Gupta in the deep.
But the biggest embarrassment was Yusuf. Once known to turn matches on its head with his big hits, Yusuf's utter helplessness against the UP spinners exposed him completely.
Once the bulwark of any team he played for, Yusuf was at sea against the spinners. He failed to move his feet, failed to clear the boundaries and in the end chewed up 27 deliveries while making only 14 runs without any boundaries, before he bottom-edged against Amit Mishra and was caught brilliantly behind the wicket by Eklavya Dwivedi, who dived to his wrong side.
Although Irfan Pathan started off with a clipped four to the midwicket boundary the asking rate was beyond his reach and he too returned to the dugout quickly. The one-sided nature of the contest was evident from the last-over equation, which left Baroda needing an impossible 48 runs from six balls.
Apart from Chawla and Kuldeep, UP's other two heroes were Raina and opener Prashant Gupta. The left-right combination's 60-run partnership for the second wicket set a strong base for UP. Raina proved the key batsman. Despite not being in dazzling form, he remained solid throughout and wrapped up the UP innings with a lapped six off Irfan.
Aside from their batting, Baroda would also rue some sloppy cricket on the field. Gupta, UP's highest runmaker (49), earned an early life when Munaf Patel forced an outside edge when he was on five. But Pinal Shah did not move to his right in time and spilled the catch. Then, when Gupta was in his 20s he spooned an easy catch to short midwicket, once again off Munaf. This time, the bowler had overstepped.
Gupta rushed towards the 50 mark but one run short of the landmark he attempted a sweep against a full delivery fired in by left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt and was trapped leg before. Two balls later Dwivedi attempted a paddle against Bhatt and fell in the same fashion. It was now up to to Raina to hold fort and he did not disappoint.
Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy
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