Mumbai: Kevin D'Almeida held his nerves, stroked a fluent 51-ball 65 to anchor Western Wolves Mumbai University to a nail-biting last-ball win against Southern Sharks Madras University at the Brabourne Stadium on Monday night. Chasing, Madras' 150 for 8, D'Almeida struck the winning boundary as Mumbai (153/7) won by three wickets in a heart-stopping encounter.
The victory keeps Mumbai in contention for a semifinal berth from this Group of Death. With their first win in two matches, Mumbai and Madras are level on points but the Rohinton Baria runners-up still stay No. 3 since Madras have a better run-rate. However, Mumbai will be in pole position to qualify for the semifinals. They play unfancied Jaypee Cement Eastern Tigers APS University, Rewa in their last group match on March 6 (Wednesday). The Rewa boys have lost both their previous matches by big margins. A Mumbai win see the exit of Madras, who have ended their group stage with one win from three games.
In a tense game where fortunes fluctuated, Mumbai paid the price for poor choice of strokes as four of their first six batsmen threw their wickets away. D'Almedia, the wiry left-hander who struck seven fours and a six in his undefeated knock, however kept his cool and held the innings together by stitching small partnerships that helped the home team.
The 50-run fourth wicket stand between Man of the Match D'Almeida and skipper Pankaj Jaiswal turned out to be crucial for Mumbai. Jaiswal looked in great touch, stroking a breezy 22-ball 30 till he holed out at long-off throwing the innings slightly off balance.
Madras came back into the game striking at crucial junctures, but Rohit Ramamlingam conceded 12 runs in the 19th over to hand Mumbai the advantage. Mumbai needed 11 to win in the last over. A couple of misfields, a missed run out chance and some smart running between D'Almeida and Saurabh Netravalkar in the 20th over gave Mumbai a thrilling win.
Earlier, a flurry of early wickets pegged back Madras University. Opting to bat first, Madras scored 150 for 8 wickets in their 20 overs, courtesy a 64-ball 80-run stand between Kamlesh Murugesan and Ganga Sridhar.
In a must-win Toyota University Cricket Championship game for the home team, Mumbai rode their pace bowlers who used the bounce of the Brabourne Stadium wicket to shake up the Madras batsmen. Left-arm seamer Saurabh Netravalkar and Prateek Dabholkar were on target as the Madras top order found it tough against a moving ball.
Madras were reduced to 35 for four wickets in the seventh over and it was then that Murugesan and Sridhar struck a purple patch. The left-handed Sridhar was lucky. He was dropped thrice (9, 17 and 19) en route to a 36-ball 48, that was punctuated by four boundaries and a massive six.
Murugesan was more circumspect. He held one end up and was keen to build partnerships until he was run out for 44 in the last over of the Madras innings. A cameo 7-ball 12 by Rohit Ramamlingam helped matters a bit but Madras lost three wickets in the 20th over. For Mumbai, their Ranji Trophy star Shardul Thakur was the best bowler with 3 for 29.