Manpreet Gony’s death-over assault helped Punjab register a thrilling five-wicket win over Himachal Pradesh in the North Zone Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy match played at the PCA Stadium on Wednesday.
Using the long handle to a good effect, the burly pacer blasted unbeaten 17-ball 35 with the help of three boundaries and two sixes, and also stitched an undefeated sixth-wicket partnership of 41 runs (off 28 balls) with Mandeep Singh (28no), to guide his side to the target of 155 runs with just three balls to spare. The victory, which was Punjab’s first in the tournament, also gave them four points.
Earlier, Himachal won the toss, and opting to bat first, opened with Chandigarh-based lad Prashant Chopra and Abhinav Bali. Getting off to an aggressive start, the Chopra-Bali duo clobbered Gony and Siddharth Kaul to score 38 runs in the first four overs.
But just when the duo was looking settled for a big partnership, Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh brought on Taruwar Kohli to the attack. The move paid dividends instantly, with Bali getting caught by Gurinder Singh for 17-ball 16.
Chopra was now joined by Rishi Dhawan, and the duo launched such an attack that made the Punjab bowling look pedestrian for the part most of their innings.
Their 91-run partnership for the second wicket between the two Himachal batsmen saw Chopra in the role of aggressor. Producing an ideal mix of caution and attack, the youngster hit Punjab bowler all around the park and accumulated 90 runs off just 54 balls, inclusive of four sixes and nine hits to the fences.
Chopra’s near-perfect innings came to an end just after he had got a reprieve at the hands of Taruwar Kohli: on the fourth ball of the 17th over, Chopra hit Gurvinder over the covers, and Taruwar Kohli, who was manning the deep, could not hold on to the catch. A delivery later, Chopra targeted the same area again, but Kohli made no mistake this time to take an easy catch.
The Himachal scorecard was reading 129 for 2 at this stage. The visitors’ innings slowed down in the last four overs, and they could only accumulate 25 runs in the remaining three overs, besides losing Dhawan (32) and skipper Paras Dogra (4). Nikhil Gangta and Bipul Sharma remained unbeaten on nine and one, respectively. For Punjab, Manpreet Gony, Siddharth Kaul, Taruwar Kohli and Gurinder Singh claimed one wicket each.
Replying, Punjab got off to a bad start, losing opener Ravi Inder Singh (7) with just 20 runs on board. However, other opener Manan Vohra held the other end up: He played briskly for his 25-ball 35 runs, and also stitched small but vital partnerships with Harbhajan Singh (24) and Mandeep Singh, to take the score to 72 in 8.4 overs.
After Vohra departed, getting run out by Nikhil Gangta, Punjab lost two quick wickets to be placed precariously on 104 for 4 in 14.5 overs. But the unbeaten partnership between Gony and Mandeep helped the hosts reach home.