New Delhi: Yuvraj Singh played a magnificent knock in a Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy match, but ended up on a losing side as Punjab failed to contain a rampaging youngster in Sanju Samson at St Paul's College Ground, Kochi on Saturday.
Put to bat first, Punjab lost the momentum after a good start and managed to post a fighting total of 135 from their 20 overs. At one time, with Yuvraj in the middle, it looked like Punjab will have in excess of 150. But the visitors never really played like a team, losing wickets at quick succession.
Yuvi's 44-ball innings yielded 54 runs, thanks to seven fours and a six.
Kerala started the chase in emphatic fashion, with openers Samson and Mohammed Azharuddeen putting on a 62-run partnership inside the first ten overs. But against a bolwing attack which has Harbhajan Singh, it was always going to some fight coming their way.
As expected Harbhajan removed Azharuddeen and Kerala skipper Sachin Baby to give Punjab a chance. And the fight was on, but only to see Kerala winning the match on the penultimate ball.
Samson's 56-ball 76 run knock included six fours and three sixes.
The five wicket win today help Kerala qualify for the quarterfinals of India's premier Twenty20 tournament from the Group B.
Punjab, despite the defeat, are still in hunt for a last eight spot with a game on Sunday. They have 12 points from three wins in five games and are placed fourth in the group behind Kerala (20 points), second placed Jharkhand (16 points) and Saurashtra, who are also on 12 points but have better net run rate.
Top two teams from each of the four groups qualify for the quarterfinals.
Both Yuvraj and Harbhajan will head to Australia to join the Indian squad for the Twenty20 series.