Sarfaraz the hero as Mumbai claim maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali title in last-over thriller

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Mumbai 146 for 7 (Sarfaraz 36*, Iyer 34, Jaiswal 27, Arora 3-27, Dagar 2-24) beat Himachal Pradesh 143 for 8 (Sen 37, Vasisht 25, Kotian 3-15, Avasthi 3-21) by three wickets

In a contest that was a fitting endorsement for a final, Mumbai dug deep to pull off a sensational last-over win and inflict heartbreak on Himachal Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final in Kolkata. The victory was all the more special since it was their maiden T20 crown.

On a nippy evening, with the Eden Gardens surface doing just enough to keep the seamers interested, Himachal stuttered with the bat to finish with 143 for 8 but kept themselves in the game courtesy some outstanding bowling and fielding for large parts.

Then with 28 needed off 17, Kanwar Abhinay had a moment to forget when he put down a swirler at short fine leg to reprieve Sarfaraz Khan. It would prove costly as Sarfaraz inflicted two body blows on Himachal to change the complexion of the match.

With Mumbai needing 16 off 8, Sarfaraz flat-batted medium pacer Abhinay for a six over long-off and followed that up with a neat, little deflection past the keeper for four to bring the equation down to six runs needed off the final over.

Tanush Kotian, who had picked up three wickets with his thrifty offspin earlier in the evening to set up the game, then hit the winning runs when he pulled Rishi Dhawan into the stands at fine leg to trigger wild celebrations in the Mumbai camp.

Avasthi and Kotian give Himachal the shivers

Plaudits shouldn’t just be reserved for just Sarfaraz and Kotian. Mohit Avasthi, predominantly a swing bowler, set the game up with the early strikes of Ankush Bains and Sumeet Verma, whose 25-ball 51 in the semi-final against Punjab was among the reasons for Himachal’s entry to their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali final.

At 20 for 2, Himachal had two options: rebuild or fight fire with fire. They chose the second option as Nikhil Gangta took the attack to the bowlers. But his attacking approach brought Mumbai a third wicket when he holed out to Aman Khan at deep midwicket to give Kotian his first wicket.

Things got from bad to worse when Nitin Sharma tamely lobbed a return catch to Kotian off the next delivery. Four balls later, when Rishi was deceived by a Shivam Dube cutter that he heaved to midwicket, Himachal had lost three wickets for one.

Kotian wasn’t done yet. Off his second over, he had Prashant Chopra courtesy some indecisiveness when he stabbed at a drifter on a length to lob a catch to a diving Prithvi Shaw at backward point. At 58 for 6, this threatened to be a no-contest.

The lower order rally

However, Himachal weren’t willing to go down without a fight. Mumbai briefly switched off and saw Akash Vasisht and Ekant Sen drag Himachal back with a swift counter-attack. But it wasn’t blind slogging. Vasisht tactfully used his crease to pick gaps behind square as Kotian and left-arm spinner Shams Mulani erred in length. At the first sign of overcompensation, Sen was aware of the possibility of hitting over the infield to pick up his first six. It set the tone for a 60-run stand off just 46 deliveries to give Himachal some impetus. Mayank Dagar then built on this partnership by providing the late flourish. His unbeaten 12-ball 21 lifting Himachal to 143.

Sarfaraz the hero

When Mumbai lost two wickets – Dube and Aman – in the space of three deliveries in the 17th over to Arora, Mumbai felt the shivers. To add to the chaos, Mulani did the dressing room no favours by looking for a glory hit, only to slice an attempted hack across the line to short third man. At 119 for 7, it was Himachal’s game to lose.

Under immense pressure now, with the fast bowlers choking Mumbai on a surface that was holding up to make shot-making a tad difficult, Sarfaraz looked for one slog too many against Dagar’s left-arm spin. It was here that the match turned when Abhinay, back-pedalling from short fine leg, failed to judge the ball under the hazy night sky under pressure.

Sarfaraz would soon find his release shots to take Mumbai home, much to the joy of the rest of the squad as they squeezed home to their maiden title win.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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