NEW DELHI: Mahendra Singh Dhoni enthralled one and all with some breathtaking sixes but a young Bengal side put up a spirited display to beat Jharkhand by 41 runs and enter the Vijay Hazare final here on Saturday.
They will meet Tamil Nadu in the final. Bengal had lost to Dinesh Karthik and Co. in the two successive finals in 2008- 09 and 2009-10.
Riding on twin hundreds by Abhimanyu Easwaran (101) and Shreevats Goswami (101) and a blistering 75 from skipper Manoj Tiwary, Bengal scored an imposing 329 for four in 50 overs.
But one of the greatest finishers of the game, Dhoni took the battle back to the enemy camp, hitting 70 off 62 balls, before they were bundled out for 288 in 50 overs.
The four sixes were vintage Dhoni and the 2000-odd spectators who had come to watch him in action were not disappointed. They were ecstatic when Ashoke Dinda dropped a sitter at long-off that trickled down to the boundary.
The hapless off-spinner Amir Gani watched in disbelief as Dhoni then hit him for two sixes over long-on — the second one went 100 metres.
The pressure of scoreboard was telling but that didn’t deter Dhoni from sending a Pragyan Ojha delivery into the second tier at the Ambedkar Stadium end.
He found an able ally in Ishank Jaggi (59 off 43 balls) who also played his shots at will, even as Bengal’s ground fielding was exceptional led by centurion Easwaran.
Ojha (5/71) has lost some zip after a remodelled action and kept on bowling short and was repeatedly punished by Dhoni and Jaggi.
However Ojha bowled the most important delivery of his entire stint with Bengal as he got one to turn away from Dhoni clipping off bail. The match was won and lost with that single delivery from Ojha.
Jaggi was leg before in the next over from Sayan Ghosh and then the match was over with Ojha wrapping up the tail.
Earlier, skipper Tiwary sent Jharkhand pacers Varun Aaron (1/89 in 10 overs) and Rahul Shukla (0/75 in 10 overs) on a leatherhunt during the final 10 overs as Bengal piled up runs.
Tiwary’s 49-ball innings had seven fours and two sixes after Easwaran and Shreevats scored identical 101 each, adding 198 runs together for the opening wicket.
While Easwaran anchored the innings with seven boundaries and a hooked six in 117 balls, Goswami had 11 fours and a six in 99 deliveries.
Goswami was more flamboyant while Easwaran was compact, which even drew applause from chairman of selectors MSK Prasad.