Bengal held their nerves beating Maharashtra by four wickets in a high-scoring thriller to set up a clash with Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Jharkhand in the semi-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Chasing a stiff target of 319, Bengal won the match when young Amir Gani lofted off- spinner Shamshuzama Kazi for a boundary off the penultimate ball of the match.
However the turning point was a 117 run stand for the 5th wicket between Sudeep Chatterjee (60 no, 51 balls) and seasoned Anushtup Majumdar (66, 59 balls) after Bengal were in some trouble at 187 for 4. This was after set batsman Shreevats Goswami (74, 88 balls) and skipper Manoj Tiwary (40) were sent back in quick succession by rival captain Kedar Jadhav.
Maharashtra had scored 318/6 riding on Rahul Tripathi's 74-ball-95 and Nikhil naik's 63. Skipper Kedar Jadhav had contributed 44.
It was Sudeep's termperament and Anushtup's audacious strokes blended with deft touchplay that ensured that Bengal never lost the momentum keeping up with the run-rate at a steady pace.
Sudeep's innings had four boundaries and two sixes -- both off left-arm spinner Jagdish Zope.
What helped was the fact Maharashtra had two left-arm spinners in Zope (0/61 in 8 overs)and Satyajeet Bachhav (0/61 in 10 overs) were taken to task by the Bengal batsmen.
It was Kedar, who created some problems especially as Manoj, who looked good for a big score was guilty of trying to hit him across the line.
Credit should also be given Shreevats and List A debutant Agniv Pan (47) for providing the initial impetus on which the others worked upon.
It was a match that Anushtup will remember for a long time to come. Often considered as a wasted talent in Bengal cricketing circle, it was skipper Manoj Tiwary's request that the selectors paid heed to while selecting the limited overs squad.
"I have played enough cricket with Anushtup to know what he is capable of. I wanted him in the squad during the Ranji Trophy but since we had won KSCA with youngsters prior to Ranji, the selectors insisted on a young team. But Anushtup can be a match-winner and he proved that," Tiwary said after the match.
Sudeep, who anchored the chase said that pitch was perfect for batting.
"It was a good batting track. So even when the captain and Shreevats got out in quick succession, we knew that if we don't lose any further wickets, we can even chase down 10 in the last 7-8 overs," said Sudeep.
Brief Scores: Maharashtra 318/6 in 50 overs (Rahul Tripathi 95, Nikhil Naik 63, Kedar Jadhav 44, Amir Gani 2/70)
Bengal 320/6 in 49.5 overs (Shreevats Goswami 74, Anushtup Majumdar 66, Sudeep Chatterjee 60 no, Agniv Pan 47, Manoj Tiwary 40). Bengal won by 4 wickets.
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