Ranji Trophy – Madhya Pradesh reach semi-finals by beating Andhra in thriller

Madhya Pradesh 234 (Dubey 64, Mantri 49, Sasikanth 4-37) and 107 (Mantri 43, Nitish 4-28) beat Andhra 172 (Shinde 38, Anubhav 3-33, Kartikeya 3-41) and 165 (Vihari 55, Anubhav 6-52) by four runs

In a game that wildly swung both ways in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, champions of 2021-22, held their nerve to inflict heartbreak on Andhra to enter the Ranji Trophy semi-finals. Playing a key role in their defence of 170 was fast bowler Anubhav Agarwal, who picked up career-best figures of 6 for 52 as Andhra were bowled out for 165 while chasing 170.

Andhra’s dreams of a maiden semi-final berth looked possible at 112 for 4, before Agarwal cracked opened the game with wickets in consecutive overs. He first had Karan Shinde lbw and then dismissed Hanuma Vihari, the captain, caught behind. Until then, Vihari had looked assured in defence to make a stonewalling 55 off 136 balls. When Agarwal dismissed Shoaib Khan for a first-ball duck, Andhra were 118 for 7, still 52 away.

Ashwin Hebbar, the allrounder, kept fighting and added 32 for the ninth wicket with fast bowler Girinath Reddy. The pair batted out 13 overs to frustrate MP before Agarwal returned to dismiss Girinath.

The final wicket was picked up by their new import, Kulwant Khejroliya, the left-arm fast bowler, when he dismissed Hebbar for 22 as MP pulled off a heist that looked a tad difficult when they were shot out for 107 in the second innings.

That total, as modest as it may seem, was only possible because Himanshu Mantri, the wicketkeeper, batted with tremendous grit to score 43. In the overall context, his scores of 49 and 43 in the match were massively significant, even though Agarwal was named Player of the Match for his haul of 9 for 85.

Andhra would reflect upon several moments where they seemed to have the upper hand, only to let it slip. In the first innings, they bundled out MP for 234, but couldn’t capitalise with the bat as they fell behind by 62 runs.

Then they came storming back through Nitish Reddy and KV Sasikanth, who picked up seven wickets between them, as MP were skittled for 107, before they collapsed in the second innings again.

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