Mumbai: West Zone champions Baroda and South Zone runners-up Kerala made a winning start to their campaign in the Syed Mushtaq Ali All India T20 tournament by defeating Bengal and Delhi, respectively.
Baroda, who won all their four league games in the zonal event, notched up their fifth straight victory by overwhelming Bengal by seven wickets at the Sharad Paar Cricket Academy ground in the Bandra-Kurla complex. Baroda shot out their rivals for a paltry 96 and then overtook the target easily in 14 overs to score a comprehensive win.
Kerala overcame a depleted Delhi by 14 runs in the other Group B game at the Wankhede Stadium by notching up a challenging 150 for 6, with opener V Jagadeesh top scoring with 52 in 36 balls.
They then restricted Delhi to 136 for 9 with some efficient bowling and brilliant fielding. In the Baroda-Bengal game, Bengal plunged into trouble soon after being asked to bat first by their rivals to be reduced to 50 for five and never recovered from this poor start. Captain S Sanyal top scored with 13.
For Baroda, medium pacers Lukman Meriwala and Abhijit Karambelkar captured three wickets each on a seaming track. Chasing the modest target, Baroda were given a decent start by Kedar Devdar (11) and Aditya Waghmode (26-ball 27).
Although in the middle they lost two wickets in close succession, Baroda sailed home thanks to an unbroken fourth wicket stand of 43 between R Solanki (16 not out) and Deeepak Hooda (24 not out off 17 balls with four fours). A Gani bagged 28 for two for Bengal.
In the Kerala-Delhi match, Kerala were off to a fabulous start when openers Jagadeesh, who hit nine fours in an entertaining knock, and J Rakesh (36 in 32 balls) put on 89 runs together.
There was a brief wobble when Kerala lost both the openers in successive balls at 89 to Yogesh Nagar and then Rahul Prem was dismissed soon after to leave them at 92 for 3. Captain Sachin Baby (28) rallied the innings around with the lower order but they still fell at least 20 runs short of what was expected, said coach Chandrakant Pandit later.
However, Delhi - without several top players - failed to get off to a sound start and slumped to 35 for three before being revived by the stand of 34 between J Anand (28 off 30 balls) and Nagar (15). But with the asking rate climbing they had to go for the shots and were caught in the deep.
Despite the best efforts of Varun Sood (22 off 13 balls with 2 sixes) Delhi fell short with Kerala fielders taking all the catches. It was Delhi's first loss after having won all five north zone league games to qualify for the inter zonals. For Kerala, Rakesh took three wickets to add to his batting effort, while Vinod Kumar and Prashanth Padmanabhan got two each.
Brief scores: Bengal 96 all out in 20 overs (L Meriwala 3/19, A Karambelkar 3/22, H Pandya 2/10) lost to Baroda 97 for 3 in 14 overs (A Waghmode 27, D Hooda not out 24; A Gani 2/28). Kerala 150 for 6 (V Jagadeesh 52, K Rakesh 36; S Baby 28; J Khan 2/22, V Sood 2/29, Y Nagar 2/29) beat Delhi 136 for 9 (V Kumar 2/17, P Prashanth 2/23, K Rakesh (3/34).
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