Vijay Hazare Trophy: All-round MP opens account with thumping win 

Madhya Pradesh opened its Vijay Hazare Trophy account in style with a four-wicket win over Gujarat on Thursday.

Harpreet Singh was Madhya Pradesh's top-scorer with 75 runs in his side's four-wicket win over Gujarat on Thursday.   -  V. Ganesan

Madhya Pradesh batsmen made light work of Gujarat's target, chasing 248 with four wickets to spare in their Vijay Hazare Trophy encounter here on Thursday.

Opener Rajat Patidar was the first to fall; Priyank Panchal taking a fine catch at covers off Chintan Gaja. But the early dismissal didn't trouble Naman Ojha (45, 29b, 4x7, 2x6), who got the chase off to a flying start - cutting, driving and pulling with effortless ease - before Piyush Chawla had him caught at covers.

If the wicket of Ojha raised hopes of a win, they were soon nipped in the bud by Harpreet Singh (76, 90b, 4x4, 4x6) and Rameez Khan (75, 93b, 4x11, 2x6), who took the Gujarat bowlers to the cleaners.

Not an inch of the Murugappa cricket ground was left unexplored, as the duo unfurled an assortment of boundaries and sixes to leave the fielders huffing and puffing. MP cruised to 150 in 24 overs before Singh and Khan brought up their 100-run partnership at nearly run-a-ball.

Khan was out bowled by Aagav Panchal while captain Singh holed out to long-on. MP, though, got the required runs without any hassle. Chawla returned with figures of three for 54.

Earlier, Gujarat won the toss on an overcast morning and decided to bat first. Openers Priyank and Dhruv Raval began cautiously against pacers Ishwar Pandey and Puneet Datey.

However, Raval (51, 67b, 4x4) soon showed signs of aggression with three boundaries inside the first powerplay, including a sublime pull shot over mid-wicket off Pandey. A few overs later, it was captain Panchal's (65, 75b, 4x7) turn to further dent Pandey's figures, as he dispatched the right-armer to cow corner for four.

Both batsmen had notched up their respective fifties before left-arm spinner Rameez broke the century-stand (116) - Raval playing a sweep shot straight to square-leg where Ankit Kushwah took a sharp catch diving forward. 

Moments later, the pair of Khan and Kushwah was once again called in action, Panchal getting caught at short fine leg.

The fall of wickets brought parity to the proceedings as MP, through its four spinners, started to put the breaks on Gujarat's scoring, with a mere 40 runs coming off the 10 overs after Raval's wicket - as the run-rate dropped from 5.52 to 4 runs an over in the passage of play that followed.

Bhargav Merai and Rujul Bhatt tried to keep the scoreboard ticking, nudging ones and twos, but the pressure showed when Merai (31, 37b, 2x4) tried to steal a non-existent single and was caught short of the crease courtesy a direct hit from cover by Hirwani. 

That triggered a collapse which saw Gujarat slip from 172/3 to 218/7, but Bhatt's (56, 67b, 3x4) rearguard ensured it finished with a fighting total of 248. For MP, leg-spinner Anshul Tripathi took four for 37.

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