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Collage Group in semifinals

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Pankaj Joshi compiled a fighting half century as defending champion Collage Group overpowered Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) by two wickets for a place in the semifinals of the 35th Lala Raghubir Singh memorial cricket tournament at the Modern School ground here on Thursday.

In another match, Malik Sports stunned Air India by six wickets. This result helped Vidya Jain Academy top the three-team group ‘B' and emerge as Collage's rival in Saturday's semifinal.

Collage chased down HPCA's 179 for nine in 40 overs after facing some anxious moments after being six down for 111. But Joshi found a determined partner in Jaideep Chaudhary (23) and raised 57 crucial runs.

With victory in sight, Jaideep and Joshi, who hit a six and four boundaries during his 99-ball knock, fell in the space of two runs. With 10 needed to win, Narender Singh and Pradeep Prashar took Collage through.

Surprising was the manner in which the once-formidable Air India failed to defend 222 against Malik Sports. Deepak Joon's unbeaten 116 went in vain for Air India which needed a victory to reach the semifinals.

Though Malik Sports lost an early wicket, three successive half-century partnerships, including for the second wicket between Devender Lochar (71, seven 4s) and Shakti Chauhan (34, five 4s, one 6) followed by the fifth-wicket stand involving Vikas Hathwala (61 not out, five 4s, four 6s) and Vishu Tomar (25 not out, four 4s, one 6) defied Air India.

The scores: HPCA 179 for nine in 40 overs (Rishi Dhawan 53, Varun Sharma 44, Pradeep Parashar three for 25, Waqar three for 26) lost to Collage Group 183 for eight in 39.4 overs (Pankaj Joshi 55, Parvinder Singh 32, Manan Sharma four for 24).

Air India 222 in 40 overs (Deepak Joon 116 not out, Shafiq Khan 42, Amninder Singh three for 35) lost to Malik Sports 225 in 37.2 overs (Devender Lochar 71, Vikas Hathwala 61 not out, Sohail Masood 34, Abid Nabi two for 48).

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