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SMAT: Knockout berths decided, big guns Mumbai, Punjab, Baroda out of the race

It was the final day of the group stage in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021-22 (SMAT). The final day ushered many surprises as hot favourites and big guns of domestic cricket, Mumbai, Baroda, Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were unable to get past the group stage. 

On the other hand, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Bengal, Maharashtra and Saurashtra came from behind and took upon the hot favourites to march into the last 11 which will be distributed into pre-quarterfinals and quarterfinals.

Captain Samson anchors Kerala to pre-quarters

In what was an amazing counter-attacking partnership between skipper Sanju Samson and Sachin Baby, the duo led Kerala to a win over Madhya Pradesh and then cross their opposition in a head to head tie at the points table to book their place for the pre-quarter-finals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Both the players remained unbeaten after completing their respective fifties. They added 110 off just 58 balls and made the chase of 172 look like a cakewalk. 

Skipper Vijay Shankar, Jagadeesan drag TN to quarters

In another virtual qualifier, Tamil Nadu were up against Punjab with both the teams stuck at 12 points each and the winner going to the quarterfinal as their net run rate was higher than Maharashtra which had already finished at 16 points from its five games. 

First Tamil Nadu restricted the explosive Punjab batting unit combining IPL regulars such as Shubman Gill, Prabhsimran Singh, Abhishek Sharma and Mandeep Singh to only 145 in their 20 overs and then skipper Vijay Shankar played the captain’s knock to secure the win. Along with Shankar’s unbeaten 59 off 40 balls, Narayan Jagadeesan’s 67 off 47 balls was also crucial in the chase. 

Easwaran, Mukesh shine in Bengal's win over Karnataka

In another elite group clash, Bengal overtook mighty Karnataka as the group leaders which also had heavyweights such as Mumbai and Baroda to top the table and qualify directly for the quarterfinals. Courtesy of very disciplined bowling from Bengal bowlers, especially Mukesh Kumar, who took three wickets, the Karnataka batting - studded with stars such as Mayank Agarwal, Devdutt Padikkal and Manish Pandey was restricted to 134. 

In reply, Abhimanyu Easwaran played a persuasive knock of unbeaten 51 off 49 balls to guide his team to victory. 

Pankaj Jaswal's five-wicket haul takes Himachal past Andhra

Till the very last game, Himachal Pradesh were not even in the reckoning of qualifying to the quarters or pre-quarters as better teams such as Haryana and Andhra Pradesh had better balance and form supporting them. However, on the day that mattered the most, Pankaj Jaswal picked a great five-wicket haul to reduce Andhra to 118 all out, chasing a comfortable target of 149. 

Courtesy of this win and Haryana’s loss against Rajasthan, which finished as the only unbeaten side along with Hyderabad among the Elite group teams at the group stage, Himachal finished at number two in their group. 

Knockout Games 

In the knockout matches, the top five teams from each elite group have already marched to the quarter-finals. Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Hyderabad are those sides. Among them, Gujarat and Hyderabad will face each other in the quarterfinals while the rest will await the results of the pre-quarter-finals. 

In the pre-quarterfinals, second-ranked teams of the five Elite groups, combined with Plate group topper Vidarbha will face each other in three matches to determine the three quarter-finalists who will face Bengal, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. 

In the first pre-quarterfinal, Vidarbha will face Maharashtra while Himachal would be up against Kerala in the second one. In the last match of the pre-quarter-final, two domestic against in Karnataka and Saurashtra will clash with each other. 

All the pre-quarterfinals will take place on November 16 while the quarterfinals will be held on November 20, with the semi-finals taking place on November 20 and the final on 22nd.

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