Defending champion Madhya Pradesh survived a late scare to reach the Ranji Trophy semifinal, ending Andhra’s dream run with a five-wicket win in the quarterfinal at the Holkar Stadium on Friday.
Put on the backfoot for nearly two days, a resurgent MP finally walked into the fourth day with the edge of not losing its openers overnight while adding 58 in a 245-run chase.
Andhra needed a resounding start, and seamer Nitish Kumar delivered when he had Himanshu Mantri caught behind down leg to stand-in skipper Ricky Bhui off the second ball of the day.
Madhya Pradesh tightened the screws with Shubham Sharma joining Dubey. Andhra seamers incessantly pitched short, often lending Dubey room for flat-batted strokes. Dubey (58) continued to enjoy the spotlight until he offered the simplest of catches to first slip off left-arm spinner Lalith Mohan. Andhra had a chance to capitalise but faltered when Shubham’s outside edge beat Bhui’s reflexes.
No. 4 Rajat Patidar joined Shubham to place the host within 110 runs of the win at Lunch.
Fight to finish
Only a string of quick wickets could have pulled it back for Andhra. While that was not to be, Shubham was bounced out at short leg by left-arm seamer Prithvi Raj Yarra. However, Patidar and all-rounder Saransh Jain milked quick runs in a 49-run stand.
Patidar raised his fifty with a six off Lalith but fell leg before to the spinner on 55. Andhra may have just had the whiff of a possible comeback as a fired-up Prithvi knocked off captain Aditya Shrivastava with a quick bumper. Runs dried up for Jain and Harsh Gawali, and Andhra stretched them to Tea.
The visitor fought hard for the remaining 28 runs, but the batters’ sufficient restraint repulsed another fairy-tale finish. Andhra’s incredible week of fortune finally came to a screeching halt when Jain hit the winning runs in the 77th over.
Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari, who did not take the field with his fractured forearm in a sling, only watched his side go down fighting from the sidelines despite his epochal valiance with the bat.
Chandrakant Pandit’s boys, however, will keep marching and host Bengal at the same venue in the semifinal next week.
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