Nadaun (Himachal Pradesh): Kerala pulled off a sensational five-wicket win over Himachal Pradesh to storm into the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy here on Thursday.
Chasing a victory target of 297, Kerala rode on splendid half-centuries by captain Sachin Baby, Vinoop Manoharan and Sanju Samson to be home and dry with 23 overs remaining on the final day.
Vinoop, who was promoted to open the innings along with Rahul P, made a fine 96, while Sijomon Joseph, who was sent in at No. 3, scored 23.
Sachin (92) and Sanju (61 not out) added 88 for the fifth wicket to take Kerala to the doorstep of victory.
Earlier, Himachal declared their second innings on the overnight score of 285/8 in pursuit of an outright win which would have sealed their place in the quarterfinals.
Kerala moved up to 26 points and finished fourth behind defending champions Vidarbha (29), Saurashtra (29) and Karnataka (27). Though Kerala, Gujarat and Baroda ended up with 26 points, Baroda missed out on run quotient.
Kerala, who lost to eventual champions Vidarbha in the last-eight last year, take on Gujarat at Krishnagiri in Wayanad from January 15.
The top-five sides combined from Group A and B made it to the knockout phase. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh progressed from Group C while Uttarakhand from the Plate Group completed the quarterfinal line-up.
Kerala have advanced while heavyweights such as Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Punjab failed to make the cut.
Brief scores: Himachal Pradesh 297 and 285/8 declared in 52.1 overs lost to Kerala 286 and 299/5 in 67 overs (Vinoop Manoharan 96, Sachin Baby 92, Sanju V Samson 61 not out).
Points: Kerala 6; Himachal 0.