It was a tame end to what could have been a memorable match. Requiring 94 to win, Punjab completed the formalities with eight wickets to spare.
Apart from the margin of victory against Himachal Pradesh, what heartened skipper Pankaj Dharmani and the team management was the manner in which they recorded the second win of the season.
On the back foot after conceding an 11-run lead, it was a remarkable comeback. Though they missed out on the bonus point, the performance would have raised Punjab’s hopes of making it to the knockout stage.
“We hadn’t the slightest idea that we’d get them out so cheaply. It’s a good win and if we continue like this, I am sure we’ll qualify for the next stage,” said Dharmani.
Vishwas Bhalla and Taruwar Kohli got the runs after Punjab lost Ravi Inder Singh and Uday Kaul to spinner Kuldeep Diwan.
For Himachal, it was another case of so near yet so far. For the third time in a row, they lost the plot after taking the first innings lead.
On Wednesday, the team had returned to the pavilion in just two-and-half hours after being skittled out for 82.
Coach Rajdeep Kalsi wore a befuddled look. “Batting is letting us down. We had the Mumbai and Tamil Nadu matches in our grasp but let them slip. Even against Hyderabad, we were in a strong position. We have hit rock bottom and the only way from here is upwards,” he said.
“These are testing times and it’s hard to maintain the team’s morale, but I hope we will do well in the next matches,” Kalsi said. If Manpreet Gony and Love Ablish were the main bowlers for Punjab, the experienced duo of Vikaramjeet Malik and Ashok Thakur did well to restrict Punjab to 186 in the first innings.
It was the Himachal batsmen who showed lack of application. Once Abhish made early inroads in the second innings, none of the batsmen showed the inclination to stay on, triggering a chain reaction.