Ranji Trophy: Madhya Pradesh reach first final in 23 years, to face Mumbai

MP defeated Bengal by 174 runs in the semi-final.

Madhya Pradesh Cricket Team
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Madhya Pradesh Cricket Team. (Photo Source: Twitter/BCCI)
Vaishnavi Iyer
VAISHNAVI IYER

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Madhya Pradesh made way into their first Ranji Trophy finals in 23 years after defeating Bengal by 174 runs on the fifth and final day of the crucial fixture at the KSCA Cricket Ground in Alur on Saturday. Enthralling performances by Kumar Karthikeya and Himanshu Mantri helped Madhya Pradesh sail past the two-time champions.

After MP set a target of 350 runs, Bengal fell victim to the cleverness of spin bowler Kartikeya (5/67) and were bowled out for 175 in 65.2 overs. The only significant score for Bengal in the second innings was of skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran, who stood on the crease like a lone warrior and notched up 78 runs off 157 deliveries before falling prey to Karthikeya.

The second-best score was from all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed, who scored an unbeaten 22 off 82 while battling for a draw alongside Akash Deep (20 off 11). This is the first time since the 1998-99 season that MP has qualified for the finals. The last time they entered the big stage, they lost to Karnataka. They will be up against the most powerful side of the tournament, the 41-time champions Mumbai, at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

MP chose to bat first and scored 341 runs, courtesy of Mantri’s 165. Bengal then recovered from 54/5 to 273 with hundreds from Shahbaz and Manoj Tiwary. Thereafter, MP was wiped out for 281 runs, allowing Bengal a chance to win by chasing 350 runs. In their second innings, captain Aditya Shrivastava (82 off 225) and Rajat Patidar (79 off 149) were the leading scorers as they helped MP reach 281 before the bowlers fulfilled their duties in the final part.

Speaking of the second semi-final between Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh, the former entered the grand finale after the game ended in a stalemate. Their first-innings lead against Uttar Pradesh proved as an advantage and helped them gain the upper hand as they sailed past their opponents. Mumbai was knocked out for 393 after being put in to bat first. Hardik Tamore and Yashasvi Jaiswal both scored hundreds. In response, UP crumbled for 180 runs.