Jalaj Saxena’s unbeaten 91 anchored Madhya Pradesh’s chase against the TNCA XI to knock the defending champion out of the Buchi Babu tournament on day two of the second round matches here on Thursday.

In a rain-interrupted start to the day’s play, TNCA XI gave itself an outside chance with three quick wickets to leave Madhya Pradesh stumbling at 139 for five, needing a further 38 runs.

Prabal Pratap Singh, however, played solidly and the TNCA XI’s resistance visibly wilted with every powerfully struck boundary by the pair. Jalaj hit the winning runs a few minutes before lunch to put Madhya Pradesh in pole position to qualify for the semifinals from its group.

Improbable win

Assam pulled off an improbable win as Himachal Pradesh lost its way from 245 for six, needing another 10 runs for a win. Himachal lost all four wickets for one run in 2.3 overs with Abu Nasim Ahmed taking the last two wickets of successive balls to get to his five-wicket haul.

TNCA President’s XI eclipsed Mumbai thanks to Kaushik Gandhi’s ton while B.R. Chauhan and C.R. Pathak scored identical hundreds to guide Saurashtra’s chase against Kerala.

Meanwhile, the technical shortcomings of the New Zealand ‘A’ batsmen on a sub-continental surface lacking in pace were evident. Pursuing 360 in 90 overs, the Kiwis were bundled out for 157 by a disciplined Combined Districts attack.

The batsmen pushed hard at the ball instead of playing with soft hands and using the width of the crease. This explains the five caught and bowled dismissals in the innings.

Districts, which meets Andhra in its last match, has a good chance of qualifying for the last four stage. Barring a miracle against Baroda, New Zealand ‘A’ is virtually out of the competition.

All-round performance

For Districts, S. Suresh Kumar followed his fine innings of 95 with four for 48 bowling steady off-spin. Left-arm spinner C. Suresh claimed two for 27.

M.K. Sivakumar and K. Sriram, who were involved in a crucial 110-run stand for the seventh wicket after Districts slumped to 208 for six on Wednesday, bowled zestfully on a pitch that did not quite assist the pacemen.

Sivakumar secured the key wicket of New Zealand ‘A’ captain Peter Fulton who decided to leave a delivery that nipped back into his stumps. Opener Aaron Redmond, who essayed a few fluent drives during his 47, was eventually consumed by Sriram’s smart change in length. Importantly, the Districts bowlers stuck to the basics and made the Kiwis play. The stump-to-stump ploy, with subtle shifts in length, worked.

The scores: At Pachaiyappas: TNCA XI 176 in 59.3 overs lost to Madhya Pradesh 177 for five in 53 overs (Jalaj Saxena 91 n.o.). Madhya Pradesh 4, TNCA XI 0.

At Murugappa: Assam 254 in 81.5 overs bt Himachal Pradesh 246 in 72.3 overs (Sangram Singh 127, Abu Nasim Ahmed five for 45). Assam 4, Himachal Pradesh 0.

At MAC: TNCA Combined Districts 359 for eight in 90 overs bt New Zealand ‘A’ 157 in 60.5 overs (Aaron Redmond 47, S. Sureshkumar four for 48). TNCA Combined Districts 4, New Zealand 0.

At Mayajaal: Baroda 213 for nine in 90 overs lost to Andhra 217 for seven in 60.2 overs (B. Sumanth 97 n.o., V. Sandeep 55, Murtuja Vahora six for 49). Andhra 4, Baroda 0.

At CPT-IP: Karnataka 226 in 81.3 overs bt Vidarbha 176 in 67.2 overs (K.P. Appanna four for 45). Karnataka 4, Vidarbha 0.

At IC-Gurunanak: Mumbai 313 for eight in 88.5 overs lost to TNCA President’s XI 314 for eight in 88.5 overs (M. Kaushik Gandhi 123, K. Shrivasudeva Das 48). TNCA President’s XI 4, Mumbai 0.

At RKM-Vivekananda: Kerala 303 in 89.3 overs lost to Saurashtra 305 for three in 75.4 overs (B.R. Chauhan 104, Jaydev Shah 74, C. R. Pathak 104 n.o.). Saurashtra 4, Kerala 0.

At SRMC (Turf): Hyderabad 373 for eight in 90 overs bt Orissa 327 for seven in 90 overs (Bikashpati 62, Rashmiranjan Das 83, Rakesh Mohanty 50, Subrajit Sahu 45, Vishal Sharma four for 93). Hyderabad 4, Orrisa 0.

More In: Cricket | Sport