Vijay Hazare Trophy : Robin Bist century knocks Punjab out: With 5 five wins from 6 games, 20 points in the kitty, just a step below Tamil Nadu, the leaders in the Group A at end of league stage, with +0.349 NRR, Punjab were all set to make it to the ‘last four’ stage of the tourney.
With batsmen Madeep Singh (394 runs from 7 innings), Yuvraj Singh (346 runs from 6 innings), Mayank Sidhana (246 runs from 6 innings), Jiwanjot Singh (244 runs from 5 onnings) and Gurkeerat Singh Mann (207 runs from 7 innings) were all set to blaze the stadium on fire in the first quarter-final match against Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab bowlers Siddharth Kaul (19 wickets from 7 innings), Barinder Balbirsingh Sran (14 wickets from7 innings) and the experienced Harbhajan Singh were all set to run-through the Himachal Pradesh batsmen.
However, the first knockout encounter between the two teams played on 24th December, 2015, at KSCA Cricket Ground, Alur, had a different story to narrate.
Himachal Pradesh, led by Bipul Sharma, won the toss and opted to field.
Their medium pacers, Rishi Dhawan and Pankaj Jaiswal were bang in target and kept the Punjab batsmen under pressure and never let them get out of it.
Losing the first wicket in the form of Pargat Sungh (0) at the team score of 1, Mandeep Singh took charge. He went on to build up a few useful partnerships along the way.
For the second wicket, he alongwith Jiwanjot Singh (20) established a partnership of 51 runs in 9.4 overs and took the team score to 52/2 in 10.1 overs.
Mandeep and Gurkeerat Singh Mann produced 62 runs in 15.5 overs for the fourth wicket, when Gurkeerat departed after scoring 35 useful runs.
The fifth wicket partnership between Mandeep and Mayank Sidhana (24) realised 53 runs in 9.2 overs while the partnership for the sixth wicket between Mandeep and the wicket-keeper, Gitansh Khera (23) realised 45 runs in 6.3 overs.
Only Mandeep could put a solid resistance and faced the onslaught, kept one end intact and went on establishing small and meaningful partnerships.
However, in the third delivery of the 50th over, Mandeep holed out to Sumeet Verma off the bowling of Rishi Dhawan. Mandeep spent 216 minutes in the middle, facing 145 balls for his 119 runs, aided by 9 fours and 1 six. This was his third List A century in his 68th match (61st innings).
Punjab’s innings folded up with 263 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in 50 overs.
For Himachal Pradesh, Rishi Dhawan returned with a figure of 10-0-60-3 while Pankaj Jaiswal finished with the analysis of 10-0-50-3.
Chasing a target of 264 runs in 50 overs, Himachal Pradesh scored 266 runs for the loss of 5 wickets in 49.2 overs, with significant contribution coming from Robin Bist, who registered his maiden List A century in his 40th game (39th innings) by notching up an unbeaten 109* runs with 9 fours, facing 135 deliveries in 188 minutes.
In the process he established three useful partnerships. For the third wicket, alongwith Paras Dogra (32), Bist put up a partnership of 54 runs in 15.4 overs, a 102 runs in 17.3 overs (the best partnership for any wicket in this game) for the fourth wicket alngwith Roshi Dhawan (41) and alongwith Nikhil Gangta (39), a partnership of 45 runs in 6.3 overs for the fifth wicket.
Except for Siddharth Kaul (8.1-1-42-3), no other Punjab bowler could make any impact on the Himachal Pradesh batsmen.
HP went on to win the match by 5 wickets and became the first team to enter the ‘last four’ stage of the tournament, causing a major upset, knocking out Punjab.
Robin Bist was awarded the Player of the Match.