Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Punjab caps off below-par campaign with win

Punjab, led by an unbeaten 70 from captain Mandeep Singh, sealed the win off the penultimate ball.

Yuvraj Singh cut a cake after Punjab beat Railways to cap off its season. (file photo)   -  R. V. Moorthy

Moments after captain Mandeep Singh (71 n.o, 48b, 5x4, 3x6) hit the last of his three boundaries off Amit Mishra off the penultimate ball of the match to complete Punjab’s consolation win against table-topping Railways in Group 'C' the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the Punjab change-room had a closed-door meeting.

The discussion wasn’t only to end yet another below-par domestic season for Punjab but also to celebrate the contribution of Yuvraj Singh, the veteran who in all likelihood had played his last game for the state side after making his debut in 1996-97.

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“It was important to finish the season on a high and bid a fitting farewell to Yuvi paaji who most probably has played his last game for Punjab,” Mandeep said after Yuvraj cut a cake that the team had organised to recognise his contribution.

The veteran southpaw himself may have been disappointed for not finding his silken touch with the willow, though. Having skipped the last two games for personal reasons, Yuvraj (26 off 15b, 6x4) rejoined the squad for Saturday’s game at Holkar Stadium. The stage was set for him to make a telling contribution when he took guard in the fifth over, with Punjab precariously placed at 15 for two after openers Manan Vohra and Shubman Gill had perished to Krishnakant Upadhyay.

He started off with a cover-driven four off Amit Mishra off his first ball. But then on, Yuvraj struggled for a better part of his cameo. He did give the crowd a reason to cheer with a trademark one-bounced four off Upadhyay. Still, half of his six fours were streaky, before top-edging left-arm spinner Harsh Tyagi in the deep.

Mandeep, though, was determined to see the team through. Despite wickets falling regularly at the other end and the asking rate having crossed nine at the halfway stage, Mandeep was determined to stretch the game deep. With 28 required off the last two overs, he opened his shoulders up off Railways captain Anureet Singh, tonking him into the second tier over deep square leg and following it up with a straight four. Left-arm seamer Barinder Sran’s straight six off the last ball then got the match in Punjab’s grasp with equation reading nine off the last over.

Mandeep’s successive cheeky boundaries to third-man off Mishra’s first two balls levelled the scores. It was followed by two dot-balls before Mandeep cleared the covers to finish the game.

Brief scores
At Holkar Stadium

Railways 149 for five in 20 overs (Prashant Gupta 54, Pratham Singh 28) Railways (Mandeep Singh, Yuvraj Singh 26; Krishnakant Upadhyay, Harsh Tyagi two for 19 lost to Punjab 153 for seven in 19.5 overs (Mandeep Singh 71 n.o., Yuvraj Singh 26; Krishnakant Upadhyay two for 23, Anureet Singh three for 52, Harsh Tyagi two for 20)

Points: Railways 0 (20 in 6); Punjab 4 (12 in 6)

At Emerald Heights International School ground

Madhya Pradesh 164 for eight in 20 overs (Parth Sahani 36, Abhishek Bhandari 46; Bipul Sharma two for 33, Ishwar Chaudhary three for 24) bt Sikkim 114 all out in 20 overs (Kumar Kartikeya three for 10, Mihir Hirwani three for 24)

Points: Madhya Pradesh 4 (12 in 6); Sikkim 0 (0 in 6)

Goa 99 all out in 17.5 overs (Vaibhav Govekar 32, Keenan Vaz 30; Jaydev Unadkat two for 22, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja two for 18, Jayesh Chauhan three for 16, Arpit Vasavada two for 9) lost to Saurashtra 100 for five in 17.2 overs (Sheldon Jackson 36; Darshal Misal two for 29, Amulya Pandrekar two for 29)

Points: Goa 0 (4 in 6); Saurashtra 4 (16 in 6)