After 13 failed attempts, 41-time Ranji Trophy winners Mumbai finally found the winning formula in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy national T20 tournament. Under Ajinkya Rahane, they became the first Mumbai side to add the trophy to their packed closet by beating Himachal Pradesh by three wickets under lights in the Eden Gardens on Saturday.
The win was not an easy one against HP, arguably the most improved white-ball side on the domestic circuit. It was Mumbai’s most trusted batter Sarfaraz Khan who saved them in a low scoring thriller.
HP pacer Vaibhav Arora defended an under par 143 and HP pacer Vaibhav Arora’s fiery second spell – he took the wickets of Shreyas Iyer (34), Shivam Dube (7) and Aman Khan (6) with sharp shorts – had Mumbai reduced to 121/7. With 23 needed on 12 balls, the pressure was completely on Sarfaraz, who, with 21 out of 27, was not that much on the ball. But as he would say after the game, he knew they would win if he was there to the end. A horizontal hit over the head of pacer Kanwar Abhinay for four, a lofted six over the bowler and a slipped four past the third man later, Sarfaraz had narrowed the target to a run-a-ball for the last over. Tanush Kotian, the off-spinner who was prolific with the ball (4-0-15-3), hit the winning six.
“We wanted to make sure there would be no repeat of the Ranji final (Mumbai lost to Madhya Pradesh),” Sarfaraz said.
HP had the worst possible start, losing six wickets for 58. Ankush Bains, the first to go to Mohit Awasthi before, was unlucky when the delivery struck him outside the line of off-stump. But it was Kotian’s clean lines that delivered three wickets in a rush to put HP back before recovering by getting 49 runs in the death overs.
Mumbai was determined not to miss the title opportunity. Prithvi Shaw’s knife, Shreyas Iyer’s (34) experience, Sarfaraz’s composure and plenty of wickets from Tushar Deshpande, Mohit Awasthi and Shams Mulani completed Mumbai’s winning tournament campaign.
Short scores: Himachal Pradesh 143/8 (A Vasisht 25, E Sen 37, M Avasti 3/21, T Kotian 3/15); Mumbai 146/7 in 19.3 overs (S Iyer 34, S Khan 36*, V Arora 3/27, R Dhawan 2/26, M Dagar 2/24). Mumbai won by 3 wickets.