Kolkata: Railways on Wednesday routed a star-studded Punjab team comprising of superstars like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh by a massive 137-run margin to enter the semi-finals of the national one-day championship for the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Railways will meet hosts Bengal in the semi-final which promises to be an exciting affair after an ill-tempered Ranji Trophy quarter-final at the same venue a couple of months back with discarded India spinner Murali Kartik being one of the central characters due to 'Mankading' controversy. (Read: Yuvraj backs India's powerhouse batting line-up to deliver in Twenty20 World Cup)
Railways won a good toss and their skipper Mahesh Rawat led from the front scoring a classy run-a-ball 108 in team's fighting total of 242.
In reply, Krishnakant Upadhyay (2/14) and Anureet Singh (2/26) ripped through the top-order while left-arm spinner Ashish Yadav (3/12) polished off the tail with Punjab being skittled out for 105 in 33.4 overs.
Railways were exceptional in the field which resulted in a brilliant run-out of Yuvraj Singh (15, 34 balls), who didn't look comfortable at all during his stay at the crease.
Coming to the crease with Punjab 12 for three after five overs in their pursuit of 243 on a difficult Eden track, Yuvraj had the perfect script but he looked shadow of his past before his anxious innings was cut short by a run-out.
Anureet in an excellent display of inswing bowling had a first ball wicket while Upadhyay wreaked havoc with his outswingers.
It was for the third day in a row, the team that won the toss and batted first won their respective matches as the Eden Gardens track produced variable bounce and swung viciously both ways.
Earlier, Rawat scored his maiden List-A ton with 13 fours and a six. He added 141 runs for the fifth wicket off 156 balls with Nagaland's Jonathan Rongsen (58 from 78 balls, 8x4s) to propel their total to 242.
They were in a spot of bother having lost four wickets for 64 runs but the wicketkeeper batsman turned the match around before Siddharth Kaul's 5/47, including three wickets in an over, bundled out Railways in 47.5 overs.
On a pitch where Bengal bundled out Tamil Nadu for 90 defending a paltry 168, the task was never easy but Punjab had a matchwinner in Yuvraj as they were remained hopeful despite losing the top three batsmen in five overs.
Yuvraj had some anxious moments against Anureet's swing bowling as a few times the ball flew past his edge while on one occasion it went through the gate but the lefthander proved to be lucky on all occasions.
The star batsman progressed at snail's pace and conceded a maiden to Anureet as his score read 1 from 11 balls before he struck his first, and only, boundary in the 16th ball with an elegant cover drive against the Railways pacer.
Just when he was looking to get into the groove mix-up with his partner Gurkeerat cost him dearly. Yuvraj responded to the non-striker's call a tad late, something that made the difference as he fell short by a few inches with an acrobatic Karn Sharma coming in-front of the stumps to gather the ball and hit the target.
"I wanted to hang in there, get through the new ball try rotate strikes. run outs changed the course of the game," a disappointed Yuvraj said.
Punjab were never in equation after his dismissal as Yadav ran through the tail castling Harbhajan Singh (11), Manpreet Gony (6) and Kaul (0) to hand Railways the mammoth win.
Brief Scores: Railways 242 in 47.5 overs (Mahesh Rawat 108, Rongsen Jonathan 58; Siddharth Kaul 5/47) beat Punjab 105 in 33.4 overs (Taruwar Kohli 27 not out; Ashish Yadav 3/12, Anureet Singh 2/26, Krishnakant Upadhyay 2/14) by 137 runs.