Kerala have become the first and the only team from Group B to progress to the quarter-finals after registering a thrilling five-wicket win over Himachal Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy 2018-19 Round 9 Elite B match on Thursday.

Chasing a target of 297 after Himachal declared their second innings at 285/8 at the start on the final day at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cricket Stadium, Amtar, Kerala were off to a shaky start. They lost opener and first innings centurion Ponnam Rahul for 14 to Arpit Guleria. (ALSO READ: Saurashtra pocket 3 points versus Vidarbha, qualify for knockouts)

Vinoop Manoharan, who was pushed up the order to open the innings, and Sijomon Joseph then steadied the innings with a 73-run partnership before Joseph, who faced 48 balls for his 23, was dismissed by Gurvinder Singh in the 23rd over.

Manoharan then found an able partner in his captain Sachin Baby as the duo combined to add 101 runs for the third wicket. Manoharan fell agonisingly short of his maiden first-class century by four runs when he was caught by Ankush Bains off Mayank Dagar in the 49th over. His brilliant 143-ball knock was studded with 11 boundaries. (ALSO READ: Hoping for a decent season, Ashutosh Aman ends up with a record-breaking one)

Mohammed Azharuddeen failed to trouble the scorers and was dismissed by Prashant Chopra immediately in the next over.

However, an important partnership between Baby and Sanju Samson – that yielded 88 runs – saw Kerala cross the finish line. Baby fell to Gurvinder, who picked up his second wicket, after a fine 134-ball 92 which included eight boundaries and one six.

Samson then went berserk and tonked five boundaries and two sixes for his brisk 53-ball unbeaten 61 to take Kerala to the quarters.

Brief scores: Kerala 286 & 299/5 (Vinoop Manoharan 96, Sachin Baby 92, Sanju Samson 61*) beat Himachal Pradesh 297 & 285/8 declare by five wickets