Gwalior: You just can't keep Prashant Mavai and Sohraab Dhaliwal out of any game. Western Wizards Jiwaji University, Gwalior stomped into the semifinals of the Toyota University Cricket Championship with a well-earned seven-run win against Northern Stallions Aligarh Muslim University, who made a hash of chasing a winning target of 140 runs. Jiwaji, thus became the second team from group A to make the last-four stage of the tournament with two wins from three games. Jain University, Bengaluru had already made the semis before.
Brilliant all-round shows by Mavai and Dhaliwal highlighted an entertaining evening at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium. Mavai deservingly won the Man of the Match award for taking four wickets for 24 off 3.3 overs and scoring a 30-ball 39 when the chips were down for the Gwalior boys.
Dhaliwal played an equally important role. An unbeaten 35 off 23 balls was followed by a wicket and three crucial catches. But it was Dhaliwal's smart change of bowlers that never let Aligarh settle and chase down the target. Even if Dhaliwal and Mavai played their roles to perfection, no less were leg spinner Pawan Dhakad and off-spinner Ravi Sikkarwar. The latter was the Bowler of the Match bagging 2 for 13, having come on to bowl as late as the 17th over.
Gwalior's brilliant team effort overshadowed a blazing 53 off 34 balls by Aligarh opener Abhinav Kataria. The burly opener played like the man he admires, Virender Sehwag. He rode his luck, Kataria was dropped twice at 11 and 48, and tried to hit his way past the Gwalior bowlers. But after slamming 10 fours, the big boy ran out luck as Mavai held a skier to give Dhakad his first wicket of the evening. Kataria's exit in the ninth over (Aligarh 68 for 2) opened the floodgates as the Aligarh boys didn't apply themselves on what looked like a fairly easy chase.
Aligarh's rather tall tail was exposed after Vipin Kumar was fifth man to return. Dhaliwal caught him off his own bowling for 23 and this seemed to be the turning point as Aligarh lost wickets at regular intervals to hand the advantage to Jiwaji.
Earlier, a 63-run second wicket stand between Mavai and Bharat Anant saved Jiwaji University the blushes as the Western Wizards scored 139 for 8 in their 20 overs. Gwalior batted first after winning the toss but Aligarh struck early with paceman Mansur Ahmad getting opener Sanat Gurjar caught at deep point for 1. But Anant (30) and Mavai (39) repaired the early damage and applied themselves on a batting deck. Anant was happy to play second fiddle to the powerful Mavai, who threw his weight behind every big hit he attempted.
Gwalior targeted at least a 150 runs but a middle-order collapse let the home team down. Dhaliwal played a fiery 23-ball 35 to get Jiwaji to a respectable score. Dhaliwal timed the ball well and blasted four boundaries, the last one coming off the last ball of the innings.
The inability of the Jiwaji top order to convert good starts into tall scores was their undoing. Anant, who applied himself well and rotated the strike with Mavai, looked good to bat till the end but threw his wicket away trying to hit off-spinner Vipin Kumar through cover. Wicket-keeper Yasir Kaleem held a smart catch. The departure of Mavai, who mistimed a fuller ball to hole out at long-off, and Anant within a span of six balls, put the Gwalior innings under pressure. But for Dhaliwal, the rest of the batting failed to take the fight into the Aligarh camp.
Medium-pacer Rohit Saini was Aligarh's best bowler. He finished with 3 for 24 off his four overs and made amends for the catches he dropped. Ahmad finished with 1 for 28 but the fastest of them all, Ravindra Singh gave away just 17 runs in his four overs and didn't get a wicket.
But it was Jiwaji's composure and belief that saw them through in a low-scoring contest. The Gwalior boys showed nerves of steel as Aligarh's fizzled out after a bright start by Kataria.