Mumbai, Apr 12: Kerala shocked Baroda by 22 runs but failed to progress to the final from Group B as the latter went through on the last ball by virtue of a better net run rate after the two teams finished level on points in the Syed Mushtaq Ali All India T20 tournament here on Saturday.
Chasing Kerala's challenging total of 152 for six, Baroda needed to score 127 to qualify as the top team in the group. The latter achieved it on the last ball of the match at the Wankhede Stadium when left-handed batsman Lukman Meriwala back cut K R Rakesh for a boundary when just one run was needed to make the grade.
Baroda were stopped at 130 for eight to lose the game but entered the final on a superior net run rate (+0.774) than Kerala (+0.661) after both teams finished the five-team group phase with identical 12 points from three wins.
In the other game at the Sharad Pawar Indoor Academy Ground at Bandra Kurla Complex, Rajasthan, who too had a slim chance to qualify on net run rate through a win, slumped to a seven-run defeat against Delhi and were knocked out. Baroda will meet the winners of Group A, being held in Rajkot, in the final here on April 14 after Sunday's break.
Chandrakant Pandit-coached Kerala deserved credit for the manner in which they fought tooth and nail against a team which entered the game not only with a much superior net run rate but also with a seven-match winning streak going back to the West Zone qualifying stage.
In the first half of the match, Keralas lower order helped them post a challenging score after they were held on a tight leash by Munaf Patels superb first spell of 3-0-7-2.
Ironically, it was Patel, who conceded 19 runs in his last over, the 19th of the innings, when Raiphi Gomez, who top scored with an unbeaten 19-ball 42, struck him for two successive sixes over the straight field with impunity.
The Kerala innings - which seemed to have got bogged down at 25 for two after the power play - was first steadied by the 39-run stand between Rahul Prem (30 in 31 balls) and Jafar Jamal (37 in 25 balls).
It was then given a shot in the arm by the 55-run stand in 30 balls for the sixth wicket between Jamal, who hit a six and four boundaries, and Gomez who slammed three sixes and as many fours.
Baroda started the chase well when their experienced opening pair of Kedar Devdhar (16) and captain Aditya Waghmode (50 in 32 balls with a six and five fours) put on 32 runs.
Baroda looked like cruising at 87 for two when the left- handed Waghmode gave a return catch to off spinner K J Rakesh and the innings went into a slump when no 4 Deepak Hooda, who had played in the junior World Cup last year, needlessly tried to slog and was caught at deep mid wicket.
They lost another wicket to be precariously placed at 94 for five even as brothers Hardik (18) and Krunal Pandya (22 in 17 balls with two sixes) retrieved the position.
In fact, it was Krunal's two successive sixes in the last over by off-break bowler Rakesh (3 for 34) that brought the qualifying target down.
He was caught off the fourth ball, a single was taken off the fifth before Meriwala hit the all-important four to help Baroda qualify for the summit contest.
Delhi fought hard to eke out a seven-run win against Rajasthan, aided by medium pacer Javed Khan's four-wicket haul at the BKC Ground. Chasing Delhi's 144 for four, Rajasthan were bundled out for 137 in the last over and went out of contention for a berth in the finals.
Opting to chase, Rajasthan lost an early wicket but seemed well in control to overhaul the target when opener Ankit Lamba and one-down batsman Arjit Gupta shared a 97-run stand.
Gupta made 72 in just half the balls and struck five fours and six sixes, while Lamba made a slow 48-ball 30. But they kept losing wickets and failed to create meaningful partnerships. From 104 for two, Rajasthan were all out for 137.
Delhi's innings was built on Kshitiz Sharma's 57 off 42 balls, studded with four fours and as many sixes.
Kerala 152 for 6 (Rahul Prem 30, Jafar Jamal 37, Raiphi Gomez not out 42; M Patel 2/26, K Pandya 3/ 31) beat Baroda 130/8 (A Waghmode 50, K Pandya 22; R Prem 2/14, K J Rakesh 3/34).
Delhi 144 for 4 (Kshitiz Sharma 57, Yogesh Nagar 29; Vinod Chavariya 2/23, Gajendra Singh Parihar 1/14) beat Rajasthan 137 all out (Arjit Gupta 72, Ankit Lamba 30; Javed Khan 4/18, Yogesh Nagar 3/13)