Left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya's sensational six-wicket haul (6/50) - his best First Class figures - doused Punjab's spirits despite it overhauling a 58-run deficit from day three. Kartikeya, who bowled from the far end in the final session the previous evening, began from the opposite end during a bright morning's play. He completed his five-wicket haul with the scalp of Sanvir Singh for a duck after Saransh Jain ended Siddharth Kaul's 52-ball 31 cameo with a stumping dismissal.
Kartikeya constricted the batters by unleashing his bag of tricks - a slew of flippers and cross-seamers - while proactively swapping sides. He ended wicketkeeper-batter Anmol Malhotra's rear-guard effort by wafting a delivery on a fine spot in the good length outside the off-stump. Malhotra fell for the trap and leaned forward to edge it straight to Rajat Patidar at first slip who has combined with Kartikeya in five of his seven wickets in the match.
Punjab, however, denied MP an innings-win by taking the lead through Mayank Markande (33 n.o.) who pushed his side past the opposition's 178-run buffer with some lusty blows. Off-spinner Saransh Jain bore some damage to his figures but quickly wrapped up the innings by dismissing Varun Choudhary (2) and Baltej Singh (6) in succession. Punjab was bundled for 203 in 68.4 overs, leaving MP a 26-run target to effectively seal its semifinal spot.
MP openers Yash Dubey and Himanshu Mantri proceeded to chase down the total in a breeze in 5.1 overs as coach Chandrakant Pandit ensured the side a last-four berth in his first Ranji season at the helm of the side. Pandit, known for his shrewd tactics, had earlier led Vidarbha to successive titles in 2017/18 and 2018/19. Agencies