When Amit Mishra walked in helmet-less, revealing the ‘undercut’ hair style — the buzz-cut on the sides, thick mop on top whose origins, the youngsters might wince if they learn, dates back to early 19th century, Uttar Pradesh seemed to be waging a losing cause. They had just three wickets left, they needed 31 from 14 balls to defeat Delhi and push their Group B table toppers Gujarat out of reckoning to enter the final of Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. Until then, they were meandering in the chase of 159, losing wickets in a clutch at the start with some iffy batting approach and it took Ekalavya Trivedi (35-ball 49*) and Praveen Kumar (13-ball 18) to bring them back into the game with a 40-run partnership. Still, when Kumar was run out at the non-striker’s end to a direct hit by Gambhir from the gully region, it did seem that UP will be out, and Gujarat will be in the final due to a better Net run rate.
Mishra, though, proved to be the gamechanger with his calculated hitting. The impressive part was that he didn’t slog though the dire situation might have prompted many a batsman into a risky approach. Instead, he impressed with how he found the gaps with some crisp driving. Subodh Bhati, the right-arm seamer, who bowled the 19th over had been economical until then, giving away 12 runs in three overs. And he started this all-important penultimate over with a dot ball before the next one ran away for four byes. Mishra sent the next two to the cover boundary with a crisp drive and a punchy shot before lifting the next over the long-on boundary, a fluid lofted hit to a length delivery. 19 runs came in that over and Mishra charged the spinner Pawan Negi to a straight six in the last over to seal the game.
Brief scores: Delhi 158/6 (Unmukt Chand 48, Pawan Negi 41 n.o.; Amit Mishra 2/25) lost to UP 159/7 in 19.4 overs (Eklavya Dwivedi 49 n.o., Navdeep Saini 2/24) by 3 wickets. –
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