With three needed off three balls, and a spot in the Vijay Hazare semi-final up for grabs, Aamir Gani pulled off a delightful inside-out cover drive for four to ensure Bengal chased down their target of 319 in style.
Gani's cameo followed sturdy contributions from the top order as Shreevats Goswami (74 off 88 balls), Anustup Majumdar (66 off 59 balls) and Sudip Chatterjee (unbeaten on 60 off 51 balls) all made half-centuries and did an excellent job keeping up with the asking rate.
That meant Maharashtra were knocked out of the knockouts, and that Rahul Tripathi (95 off 74 balls) and Nikhil Naik's (63 off 52 balls) efforts were in vain. They had smashed 109 runs in the last 10 overs to put a strong total on the board, and then their bowlers had pushed Bengal pretty hard in the chase as well. Shrikant Mundhe dismissed the set batsman Majumdar in the 49th over to force the equation to 15 needed off 10 balls with five wickets in hand and Shamshuzama Kasi struck with the third ball of the final over. The next one, however, was smashed for the match-winning boundary.
Bengal would have to face the MS Dhoni-led Jharkhand in the semi-final on Friday, a six off his bat making sure his team would be one of the final four. The six-wicket victory though was set up by the bowlers who reduced Vidarbha to 159 for 9 after they had chosen to bat first. Only Ravi Jangid (62 off 87) and Ganesh Satish (35 off 54) made any contributions of note. Rajneesh Gurbani, the No. 9, did his best to make 22 off 70 balls so that Vidarbha at least played out their quota of overs. Considering they were 18 for 4 at one point, that was something of a consolation for Faiz Fazal and his men.
Jharkhand's Monu Kumar was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 27. Varun Aaron (1 for 41) and Shahbaz Nadeem was at his stifling best, picking up 1 for 13 from eight overs. Their good work was supported by the batsmen with Ishank Jaggi top-scoring with 41 off 61 balls and remaining unbeaten.
Maharashtra vs Bengal
Vidarbha vs Jharkhand
Vijay Hazare Trophy
Indian Domestic Season