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SMAT: Baroda thumps fancied Punjab in a one-sided affair; will take on TN in final

A well-oiled unit of Baroda, inspired by captain Kedar Deaodahar’s batting and active decision making in the field, beat Punjab in a one-sided affair at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera to move to the finals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021. It was a surprise in the sense that Punjab had defeated big teams like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh in their group with huge margins. 

Punjab couldn’t get to a start that they needed while chasing 161 as they lost two of their main batsmen Abhishek Sharma and Prabhsimran Singh, the two men that had propelled Punjab to better starts in the previous matches, were picked up cheaply by Lukman Meriwala. The rest of the players couldn’t get going either as Anmolpreet Singh and Ramandeep Singh took too many balls to settle down before getting out through forced shots. 

A major problem for Punjab occurred when their captain Mandeep Singh got injured while fielding and couldn’t bat at his usual number three position, putting a lot of o pressure on the less exposed and inexperienced middle order. It was exploited well by the Baroda bowlers especially spinner Bhargav Bhatt who choked the flow of runs in the middle overs forcing Gurkeerat Mann to take extra risks and thereby losing his wicket. Once he was out, all hopes of a Punjab revival died down and the team could manage only 135 runs in their 20 overs quota. 

Earlier in the evening, Punjab after winning the toss decided to bowl first and got a good start as Ninad Rathva and hero of the last game Vishnu Solanki was removed in the 9th over with only 58 runs on the board. The Punjab team was going strong until the players started dropping dollies as both Kedar Devdhar and Karthik Kakade were dropped very early in their innings on the bowling of Mayank Markande and Harpreet Brar respectively. Once the chances went begging, there was no coming for Punjab as Baroda raced to 160 in their 20 overs as both Devdhar and Kakade scored their fifties. 

With this win, Baroda have now made it to their fourth Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final in 12 editions where they will play Tamil Nadu, who beat Rajasthan earlier in the day to make it to consecutive finals and their third final in total.  

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