Irfan Pathan stepped on the field for the first time in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament and made a telling impact. His all-round prowess guided Baroda to an eight-run victory over Punjab in the final, at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai, on Tuesday.
The southpaw (36 not out) smashed a six and five fours in his inimitable style, including three fours in two overs towards the end of the innings, as Baroda put up a competitive score of 149 for 6 after looking like ending up with much less earlier in the innings.
The Man of the match then grabbed two for 24 with his swing bowling and also effected a run-out to dismiss rival captain Harbhajan Singh (15 off 8 balls), who was using the long handle to good effect. That saw Baroda stop Punjab at 141 for 8.
It was Baroda's first senior title in 12 years after the Ranji Trophy crown they won in 2001, beating Railways in the title contest, and Irfan was a part of that team in his debut season.
Baroda won Rs 10 lakh while Punjab received Rs 5 lakh.
Punjab had fought their way back into the game after losing openers Chandan Madan and Sarul Kanwar with only 9 on the board.
The men who led Punjab's revival were Gurkirat Mann (12), Mandeep Singh (40 in 31 balls), left hander Bipul Sharma, who scored 41 in 38 balls with three fours before being eighth out after taking 2 for 15 with his left arm spin, Amitoz Singh (21 in 8 balls with a six and 2 fours) and Harbhajan.
The match, as a contest, was on till Harbhajan Singh was run-out due to a fine piece of fielding by Irfan, who stopped the ball on his follow through and flicked it at the stumps, catching the Punjab skipper short of the crease.
Harbhajan, who was expensive, giving away 35 runs without a wicket, had struck a four and a six in his 8-ball stay and appeared to be taking the game away when he was dismissed after Punjab were on 133 in the 18th over.
Irfan, who missed the first three matches that Baroda played in the tournament as he was away with the Indian squad for the Asia Cup in Dhaka, then sent back former India colts opener Taruwar Kohli in the same over, the penultimate one, to swing the momentum his team's way as Punjab lost two wickets in five balls.
Needing 28 runs in the last three overs, Punjab had brought the target down to 11 in the last over, bowled by Murtuza Vahora, who was till then looked the weak link in Baroda's bowling, with Harbhajan clouting him for a six and a four in his third over.
But the Baroda medium pacer held his nerve and conceded just two runs to the 9th wicket pair of Manpreet Singh Gony and Rahul Sharma to seal victory.
India discard Munaf Patel also bowled well and got good bounce off the pitch to claim 2 for 21, the wicket of Amitoz being crucial as he looked in good touch before edging to 'keeper Pinal Shah.
Yusuf was expensive, giving away 35 runs in four overs.
Brief scores: Baroda 149 for 6 (Yusuf Pathan 27, Pinal Shah 39, Irfan Pathan 36 not out; Manpreet Gony 2 for 21, Bipul Sharma 2 for 15) beat Punjab 141 for 8 (Mandeep Singh 40, Bipul Sharma 41, Amitoz Singh 21; Irfan Pathan 2 for 24, Munaf Patel 2 for 21) by 8 runs.