Mumbai's bowlers held their nerve to clinch a thriller against Punjab at the Sardar Patel Stadium B Ground in Ahmedabad, to book their place in the quarter-finals of Vijay Hazare Trophy. The tone for a low-scoring thriller was set after Punjab won the toss and reduced Mumbai to 21 for 3 in the sixth over as Sushant Marathe, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma fell by the wayside. Wasim Jaffer tried to steady things in the company of Parag Khanapurkar, before he became the first of three Rahul Sharma scalps in the 20th over.
With their best batsmen out of the equation, Mumbai needed a hero to save the day and they found one in the unheralded Khanapurkar. Despite paltry contributions from the tail, he kept the scoreboard ticking with a mixture of good running and aggressive hits. Abhishek Raut hung around long enough to help him raise 53, as Mumbai stuttered past the 200-run mark. Khanapurkar was the last man out, for a maginificent 123 off 118 balls, an innings that suggested that he was batting on a different wicket. Bipul Sharma picked three wickets and Love Ablish finished with two, as Punjab chased 228.
With a modest target to defend, the Mumbai attack rose to the occasion in characteristic fashion. Dhawal Kulkarni accounted for Ravi Inder Singh early, before Rohit sent back Uday Kaul, the Punjab captain, in the 12th over to trigger some anxiety. Mandeep Singh, the India Under-19 star, took charge of the chase, and calmed the nerves with significant, if not substantial stands for the next three wickets. But Mumbai kept fighting, striking each time a partnership threatened to settle the issue.
When Mandeep fell at 193 for 7 in the 45th over, the game was there for the taking, and Bipul looked intent on settling it in Punjab's favour with a 25-ball blitz worth 33. But his fall, with 15 needed off 16 balls gave Mumbai the inch they needed to roar back into the game. It was fitting that Khanapurkar got the penultimate wicket, of Rahul who had struck a six, before Jaskaran Singh was run out off the first ball of the final over, with Punjab still four runs short.
Saurashtra upstaged Uttar Pradesh comfortably by seven wickets to seal a place in the quarter-finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Sagar Jogiyani, the Saurashtra wicketkeeper, starred with his maiden List-A century, laced with 10 fours and three sixes, to steer his side past UP's 204 with almost ten overs to spare.
A combined bowling effort had helped Saurashtra, who opted to field, to restrict the opposition. Left-am medium-pacer Jaidev Unadkat grabbed three for 44, and was supported by Jayesh Odedra, who picked up two wickets, as they made inroads into the top order to dent UP early into their innings. There were important contributions from Ali Murtaza (67) and Piyush Chawla (48), but a total of 204 proved inadequate in the wake of Jogiyani's dominating response.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Saurashtra, however. UP had nipped out three wickets for 63, including Cheteshwar Pujara, but Jogiyani was well backed up by Shitanshu Kotak, who made 69 in an unbeaten stand of 142 to seal victory.
Saurashtra will take on Bengal in their quarter-final in Vadodara on February 25, while Mumbai heads to Rajkot to face Tamil Nadu on the same day.