Yuvraj scores 50 in Punjab’s thrilling 2-run win

The out-of-favour India cricketer Yuvraj Singh smashes half-century in 40 balls in the North Zone encounter of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in presence of IPL scouts from Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Punjab’s Yuvraj Singh en route his half-century against Kerala in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy National Twenty20 Cricket Championship match in Kochi on Tuesday.   -  THULASI KAKKAT

Several former India stars began their T20 season at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium here on Tuesday as Punjab edged past host Delhi by two runs in a close North Zone match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy.

Chasing a below-par total of 170, Delhi could only manage 168 for four wickets, faltering in the last over as Siddharth Kaul, the most expensive Punjab bowler till then, prevented Pawan Negi and Lalit Yadav from playing any big shots at crunch.

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The marquee clash of the tournament had representatives from three IPL franchises — Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore — as witnesses ahead of the auctions later this month. Put in to bat, it looked like Punjab would have an easy run with Manan Vohra and Mandeep Singh batting freely before Delhi pegged it back. The team raced to 50 in five overs before Mandeep, returning to action after a long break post his back surgery, fell to Pawan Negi's turn.

Highly-praised youngster Anmolpreet Singh failed to get going but Yuvraj Singh and Vohra smashed the ball all over the ground much to the delight of a few hundred people in the stands. Yuvraj's 40-ball 50 included some delightful shots through the cover region but was overshadowed by Vohra’s 74-run knock that saw him punish every bowler with the bulk of his runs including five of his six sixes coming between long on and deep-midwicket.

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Delhi captain Pradeep Sangwan appeared rusty on his comeback and none of the youngsters managed to impress. Young leg-spinner Tejas Baroka suffered the most, tonked by both the batsmen in his two overs. In reply, Gautam Gambhir played his own version of a fightback with a 54-ball 66 but once Rishabh Pant was run out at the other end, the scoring rate dropped and Delhi was left playing catch-up. Gambhir continued to find the gaps but finally fell going for a second run in the penultimate over as Punjab pulled back towards the end.

In the other match, Himachal Pradesh racked up its second win in as many games and with equal ease, defeating Jammu & Kashmir by 33 runs in a low-scoring game. Nikhil Gangta and Bipul Sharma were the only Himachal batsmen to provide some resistance in a total of 130 but even that was a target too high for the J&K batsmen with eight of them managing only single digit scores. Seamer Pankaj Jaiswal picked up four wickets.

Brief Scores

Punjab 170/3 (Manan Vohra 74 off 50 balls, Yuvraj Singh 50 off 40 balls) bt Delhi 168/4 (Gautam Gambhir 66 off 54 balls, Rishabh Pant 38 off 25 balls, Harbhajan Singh 0/31 in 4 overs) by 2 runs.

Himachal Pradesh 130/8 (Nikhil Gangta 31, Parveez Rasool 2/15 in 4 overs) bt Jammu & Kashmir 97 in 17.4 overs (Pankaj Jaiswal 4/15) by 33 runs.