Domestic giants Mumbai have won the coveted Ranji trophy numerous times in addition to winning the Vijay Hazare trophy many times, but the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy has eluded them. However, that could change on Saturday when they face Himachal Pradesh in the final.
On a fine half-century from Shreyas Iyer, Mumbai took a convincing five-wicket victory over Vidarbha in the second semi-final under the lights at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Earlier in the day, Himachal Pradesh defeated the star-studded Punjab by 13 runs in a thrilling encounter.
For cricket in Himachal Pradesh in recent years it is a huge change of fortune as they now seem to be one of the better structured units in the domestic circuit. They did not become a BCCI affiliated unit until 1984, winning their first major title, the Plate Group final of the Ranji Trophy in 2006-07. Then they waited nearly 14 years to get their hands on their first Vijay Hazare Trophy, beating Tamil Nadu in Jaipur last December.
The victory proved the rise of Himachal Pradesh in no uncertain terms. Their winning momentum also continued on Thursday as they took a thrilling 13-run victory over four-time second Punjab in Kolkata.
Everyone on the Himachal Pradesh side did their job well. The batters set a challenging goal in the Eden Gardens, and then the bowlers and fielders put in some fine performances to limit their opponents, despite Team India’s opener Shubman Gill’s scintillating 45-off 32 innings.
“Our success does not come from magic, but from responsible cricket played by all members of the team. We played cricket wisely and that is the reason for our success,” said young all-rounder Akash Vasisht after the game.
“In a nutshell, I’m not going for rushed shots, I rotate the shots and I definitely try to hit a line in every over,” Kangra boy Vasisht, who hit 43 in just 25 balls with the help of three fours and two sixes , added. The 27-year old batter also had an unbeaten 76 in the quarterfinal game against host Bengal on Tuesday.
Previously Himachal Pradesh was also in trouble, losing two quick wickets for just 31 in 5.1 overs, but a crucial 45-run fourth wicket score between Sumeet Verma (51, 25b, 3×4, 3×6) and Vasisht (43, 25b, 3×4, 2×6) helped their side finish at 176/7. A cameo with 16 balls and 27 runs, including two fours and a six, from Pankaj Jaiswal finally made the difference.
In the match between Mumbai and Vidarbha, Shreyas Iyer stole the spotlight with a sparkling 73 from just 44 balls with the help of seven fours and four sixes, while the Ajinkya Rahane-led side exceeded Vidarbha’s tally of 164 in just 16.4 overs.
Iyer traded in fours and sixs before being caught by substitute Lalit Yadav at Akshay Karnewar. His 61-run fourth wicket partnership with Sarfaraz Khan (27, 19b, 2×4, 1×6) helped Mumbai to a comfortable win. He also set up 33 runs for the third wicket with opener Prithvi Shaw (34, 21b, 2×4, 3×6).
Himachal Pradesh 176/7 (S Verma 51, A Vasisht 43, P Jaswal 27, S Singh 2/17, A Sharma 2/20) defeated Punjab 163/7 (S Gill 45, A Singh 30, M Singh 29*, R Singh 29, R Dhawan 3/25, M Dagar 2/27).
Vidarbha 164/7 (J Sharma 46*, A Wankhade 34, A Taide 29, S Dubey 20, S Mulani 3/20, S Dube 2/15, T Deshpande 2/24) lost to Mumbai 169/5 in 16.5 overs ( S Iyer 73, P Shaw 34, S Khan 27, A Karanewar 2/24, D Nalkande 2/35).