Mohammed Kaif played a captain's knock of 64 to guide Uttar Pradesh to a five-wicket victory over Mumbai and a place in the final of the Ranji Trophy cricket championship at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Monday.
Mumbai, who have won the Ranji Trophy a record 36 times, failed in their bid to make it to the final in their Platinum Jubilee year.
Resuming at 39 for 1 on day 4 of the five-day semi-final, Uttar Pradesh, chasing 214 for victory, lost opener S Shukla pretty early as he chased a delivery from Avishkar Salvi and was caught behind for 18. The team's score then read 54 for two.
However, Suresh Raina joined his captain and the two one-day specialists eschewed all risks to take the team closer to the total.
They put on 66 runs for the third wicket in 22.5 overs before Raina fell to Nilesh Kulkarni, caught by Sahil Kukreja at forward short leg for an invaluable 44, which came off 65 balls and included five hits to the fence.
R Shamshad then joined Kaif, who posted his 50 in 118 balls, inclusive of six boundaries.
Shamshad launched into the Mumbai attack as Kaif played the sheet-anchor role to perfection at the other end, slamming four boundaries in a 33-ball 29, before he was caught in the deep by Avishkar Salvi off the bowling of off-spinner Ramesh Powar.
His 43-run partnership with Kaif took UP closer to the victory target, with Uttar Pradesh on 173 at the loss of four wickets.
Kaif, after compiling 64 in 163 balls, inclusive of six hits to the fence and one over it, fell to Ramesh Powar, caught behind by Vinayak Samant with the score reading 198, still 16 runs short of victory.
Mumbai captain Nilesh Kulkarni then applied the pressure, hoping that the Uttar Pradesh tail would cave in, but Jyoti Yadav, who came down the order in this innings, stayed till the end, unbeaten on 26, to guide the team to a historic victory, with more than a day to spare.
Uttar Pradesh await the winners of the Bengal-Baroda match.
The final begins on January 30.
For the second year running, Mumbai failed to get past the semi-final stage.
Mumbai (1st innings): 199
Uttar Pradesh (1st innings): 250
Mumbai (2nd innings): 264
Uttar Pradesh (2nd innings): (overnight 39 for one)
P Kumar c O Khanvilkar b A Salvi 14
S Shukla c V Samant b A Salvi 18
M Kaif c V Samant b R Powar 64
S Raina c S Kukreja b N Kulkarni 44
R Shamshad c A Salvi b R Powar 29
Jyoti Yadav not out 26
G K Pandey not out 10.
Extras: (b 6, w 3, nb 2) 11
Total: (for 5 wickets in 59.4 overs) 216
Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-54, 3-130, 4-173, 5-198.
Bowling: A Salvi 10-2-27-2, S Hazare 5-0-26-0, Kulkarni 20.4-5-64-1, R Powar 23-1-81-2, U Malvi 1-0-12-0.
Result: Uttar Pradesh won by five wickets