Delhi maintained their composure under pressure to edge out former champions Uttar Pradesh by three runs in a low-scoring thriller to set up a summit clash with Rajasthan in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament.
The domestic Twenty20 competition will have a new champions this season as both Delhi and Rajasthan have made their maiden final slated at Eden Gardens under lights on Friday.
In group A at the Eden Gardens, Rajasthan choked in their paltry chase of 130 to suffer a five-run defeat but they still sneaked into the final on better net runrate (0.519-0.080).
However, Punjab bowlers were superb at the death as they conceded just 21 runs and took two wickets in the last five overs to restrict Rajasthan to 124/8.
It was not enough as Punjab were to restrict Rajasthan under 106 to make their third final appearance.
Earlier, Delhi were the first to book a maiden final berth upsetting a strong Uttar Pradesh in a group B match at the Jadavpur University second campus ground in Saltlake.
On a day India veteran and two-time IPL champion Gautam Gambhir failed to get a big score, Rishabh Pant again did the star turn smashing 34-ball 58 (5×4, 3×6).
Delhi reached 140/9 after being sent in by Uttar Pradesh skipper Suresh Raina.
Fresh from three successive fifty-plus scores that included an ominous 126 not out, Raina (16) failed when it mattered the most as Uttar Pradesh batting caved in for 137 off the last ball.
It was Subodh Bhati, who triggered the collapse to return with a brilliant 2/28 as the Delhi medium pacer also held his nerve in a nail-biting last over to confirm their maiden final berth from Super League group B.
Needing 13 off the last over, diminutive lefthander Saurabh Kumar was all fired up when he started off with a six off Bhati.
But in the next ball, his quickfire 18-ball 33 (2×4, 2×6) was halted by a brilliant runout while he was attempting for a double to retain the strike.
With six needed off four, Bhati bowled two dot balls and conceded two singles to knock out Uttar Pradesh.
Raina gave Uttar Pradesh a brisk start to be 43/1 in the Powerplay but a bowling change did the trick for Delhi as they dismissed three wickets in as many overs including the in-form duo of Raina and Umang Sharma (17) in space of five balls.
First it was Raina who was caught by Milind at deep point, before Umang and Akshdeep Nath departed in successive overs as their batting began to crumble.
Promoted to No 4, Rinku Singh (34 off 26 balls; 4×4, 1×6) was their topscorer but he was dismissed by Pawan Negi (2/13) as Uttar Pradesh kept losing wickets after Raina’s failure.
Earlier, Gambhir, who had scores of 21, 7 and 1 in the previous three matches of the Super League, got out in the fifth ball of the day to continue his woeful form.
Gambhir edged pacer Amit Mishra to be caught behind while in-form Dhruv Shorey (12) got out cheaply after his failed pull attempt was caught by Raina at slip.
Pant revived their innings with his seventh T20 halfcentury but before he could make it big a brilliant direct hit by Rinku Singh from the midwicket ended his stellar innings.
In the second ‘virtual’ semifinal, a star-studded Punjab were restricted for 129/9 as Rajasthan continued their impressive show in bowling that paved their way for a maiden final apperance.
Medium pacer Deepak Chahar led the show with excellent figures of 2/9 from 1.5 overs before limping off the field as Mahipal Lomror finished the over.
Deepak’s brother Rahul Chahar also grabbed two wickets including the prized scalp of Yuvraj Singh.
The stylish left-hander had another forgetful stay at the crease with four from 11 balls befor being stumped, while Khaleel Ahmed (3/17) was their top wicket taker.
Skipper Harbhajan Singh, batting at No 3, top-scored with a 31-ball 32 (2×4) while Barinder Sran’s 13 not out from nine balls (1×4).
Rajasthan began their chase shakily to be 4/2 in 1.1 overs when Ankit Lamba’s 37-ball 47 (7×4, 2×6) revived their hopes.
They kept losing wickets and Deepak Chahar also retired hurt for 15 from 15 balls (1×4, 1×6) to hand Punjab a consolation win.
At Jadavpur University Second Campus ground, Salt Lake: Delhi 140/9 in 20 overs (Rishabh Pant 58, Milind Kumar 32; Israr Azim 2/12, Mohsin Khan 2/29, Ankit Rajpoot 2/33) beat Uttar Pradesh 137 in 20 overs (Rinku Singh 34, Saurabh Kumar 33; Pawan Negi 2/13, Subodh Bhati 2/28) by three runs.
Tamil Nadu 123/7 in 20 overs (S Anirudha 32 not out) lost to Baroda 125/5 in 17.1 overs (Kedar Devdhar 68) by five wickets.
At Eden Gardens: Punjab 129/9; 20 overs (Harbhajan Singh 32, Sharad Lumba 31; Khaleel Ahmed 3/17, Deepak Chahar 2/9, Rahul Chahar 2/19) beat Rajasthan 124/8; 20 overs (Ankit Lamba 47; Barinder Sran 3/22, Manpreet Gony 2/20) by five runs.