Mumbai: Baroda and Uttar Pradesh will square off in the final of the Mushtaq Ali T20 cricket championships after notching up contrasting wins over their respective opponents in the final Super League encounters on Monday.
Baroda pipped hosts Mumbai en route their summit clash berth by virtue of a better net run rate (NRR) while UP beat a formidable Delhi to reach title round.
Needing 152 to win in 19.1 overs to qualify for the finals, Baroda reached the target with one wicket to spare in 19 overs in a thrilling Group A match at the Wankhede Stadium. Baroda recorded a better NRR of +0.299 compared to +0.196.
UP, on the other hand, notched up their third straight win in Group B at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground of the Mumbai Cricket Association - by defeating Delhi by three wickets with two balls to spare.
Replying to Delhi's total of 158 for 6, structured around opener Unmukht Chand's 48 and Pawan Negi's unbeaten 41, UP scored 159 for 7 in 19.4 overs, with Eklavya Dwivedi's game-changing innings of unbeaten 49 off 35 balls with five boundaries and two sixes.
At Wankhede Stadium, Baroda, after winning the toss, opted to field. Mumbai's 151 for five was built around T20 specialist Suryakumar Yadav's 57 off 36 balls studded with eight boundaries.
Chasing the target in 19.1 overs to qualify for the January 20 final under lights at the Wankhede, Baroda were struggling at 79 for 4 after 11 overs through a triple strike by leg spinner Praveen Tambe, who packed off Mrunal Devdhar (18), Hardik Pandya (28) and Yusuf Pathan (1).
And when Irfan Pathan (19) and Deepak Hooda departed, the latter after making 53 in 35 balls, Baroda were in trouble at 126 for 6 at the beginning of the 17th over.
But Soaeb Tai (10) and wicketkeeper Pinal Shah (13) held their nerves to add crucial 19 runs. Though they lost three more wickets, the last wicket pair of Bhargav Bhat (4 not out), who had taken two wickets earlier, and former India player Munaf Patel (0 not out) helped Baroda complete a close win within the stipulated number of overs.
Baroda, two-time champions in 2011-12 and 2013-14, have thus earned themselves a chance to regain the trophy.
In the UP-Delhi encounter, in-form Chand - who had cracked a hundred against Gujarat earlier - struck three sixes and as many fours at the beginning of the innings and also had an opening partnership of 33 with out of form Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir (13).
Though Delhi lost their way after that to be 105 for 6 just before the end of the 15th over, Negi slammed 41 in just 23 balls, enmeshed with two sixes and four fours, and also added 53 runs in 31 balls with Manan Sharma to help the side cross the 150 mark.
Chasing the target, UP were in deep trouble at 19 for 2 and then 88 for 6 after 13 overs, which included the wicket of captain Suresh Raina (22 off 18 balls), before they turned it around.
Dwivedi's timely, unconquered knock and his partnerships of 40 runs with Praveen Kumar (18 off 13 balls) for the seventh wicket and an unbroken 31 for the eighth with Amit Mishra (not out 19 in 9 balls) proved crucial.
In an earlier Group B match at the BKC ground, defending champions Gujarat defeated Jharkhand by 6 wickets for their second win in the league, but it was not enough to carry them into the final.
In another Group A game, Kerala defeated Vidarbha by two wickets for their second win, but it was not enough to get the former a spot in the final.