Vinay Galetia led a superb exhibition of seam bowling and Prashant Chopra backed it up with a patient yet brisk 99 as Himachal Pradesh stunned Uttar Pradesh in the quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here.
The five-wicket win was HP’s first over UP in List A cricket, and for the first time since 2015-16, the side made it to the semifinals.
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Galetia made a decisive impact in the contest in the first hour itself, dismissing three top-order batters to leave Uttar Pradesh struggling at 39 for 4 in the 15th over, and from here on, the team was forever playing catch-up. What caused the top-order collapse was the batters’ inability to deal with excellent seam bowling – deliveries that just moved in slightly after pitching. For once, Rishi Dhawan took the backseat as Galetia (3 for 19) and Sidharth Sharma (2 for 27) not only took wickets but also reduced the runs to a trickle.
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The reliable hands Akshdeep Nath and Rinku Singh (76, 102b, 6×4) had to rally once again, but this time made only a limited impact.
HP opener Prashant Chopra, then, knuckled down for a well-paced inning of 99 (141b, 10×4, 2×6) to help shepherd the team home. He negotiated the first 10 overs with care and caution alongside Shubham Arora, before combining with Nikhil Gangta, who scored a free-flowing 58 (59b, 5×4, 3×6), for a long partnership. A brief stumble followed – four wickets fell for 18 runs – but it couldn’t reverse the tide.
Choosing to bowl, HP was on top quite early. First, Abhishek Goswami attempted a drive off a full delivery from Sidharth Sharma and was dismissed lbw. Galetia, who bowled full or on a good length at a good pace, troubled the batters. Aryan Juyal was dismissed bowled after he came down the track for an aggressive stroke and missed the ball as it came in after pitching, and in the same over, No. 3 Karan Sharma was also undone by the ball seaming into him.
Dhawan, the captain, had taken himself off after bowling only two overs early on and had handed the ball to Galetia. Now recognising the sharpness of his spell, he let Galetia bowl his full quota of 10 overs. After a period of many plays and misses, Galetia had one more, in the 15th over: Sameer Rizvi was dismissed lbw after a nervy innings of 5.
Akshdeep and Rinku blocked and nudged their way to try and keep wickets in hand for the business end. But on a pitch that seemed inhospitable for batters needing the ball to come on to the bat to score freely, they couldn’t quite take their team to a safe total.
They rode their luck, too, in their partnership of 64. In the 22nd over, Akshdeep was dropped by Shubham Arora off Pankaj Jaswal, the fourth seamer. The ball travelled to the right of the wicketkeeper, who dived but couldn’t grab it. In the next over, Rinku edged a delivery from Dhawan to the vacant gully region, and in the 25th over, Akshdeep nearly holed out to the fielder at deep square leg.
It was in the 32nd over, though, when the alliance ended. Akshdeep, moments after being involved in a mix-up that nearly culminated in Rinku’s dismissal, drove a delivery from Sidharth straight to the fielder at mid-off, perhaps foxed by the slower delivery.
Rinku and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the new batter, ran hard between the wickets and played some strokes. But there weren’t any expensive overs as the batters struggled to time the ball.
HP, on the other hand, had runs flowing smoothly for quite a while during the chase. Between the 31st and the 37th overs, Chopra and Gangta indulged themselves by going for their strokes, including one for a six to long-on.
Chopra brought up the 100-run partnership (off 110 deliveries) with a flick to fine leg for four off Ankit Rajpoot, and it seemed a win was around the corner.
But Rajpoot and Shivam Mavi precipitated a collapse as batters one after the other found ways of getting out. Gangta was out trying to play the late cut off Rajpoot; Dhawan edged Rajpoot behind to fall for a duck; Chopra chipped a delivery from Mavi straight to mid-off and slumped to his knees; and Sumeet Verma chipped one to mid-on, with 13 left to win.
Such a collapse didn’t hurt, thanks to Chopra’s elegant innings. It ensured his team didn’t buckle against the new ball and potent seamers. Yash Dayal (0 for 25) and Shivam Mavi (3 for 34) did bowl with precision, but couldn’t dislodge him early on.
Uttar Pradesh 207 for 9 in 50 overs (Rinku 76, Bhuvneshwar 46, Galetia 3 for 19) lost to Himachal Pradesh 208 for 5 in 45.3 overs (Chopra 99, Gangta 58, Mavi 3 for 34)