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Four remain as race for 2022-23 Ranji Trophy title intensifies

Last updated on 07 Feb 2023 | 10:13 AM
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Four remain as race for 2022-23 Ranji Trophy title intensifies

Saurashtra will take on Karnataka, while Madhya Pradesh will come face to face against Bengal

Indian cricket has been blazing a trail of cash-rich leagues, star-studded international lineups, and one batting prodigy after the other. The manufacturing unit where the base to launch Indian cricket into the stars is developed is ready for another enthralling showdown as Ranji Trophy 2022-2023 semi-finals are upon us. 

Saurashtra, who pulled off a fantastic victory against Punjab after being behind the game for significant portions of the match, will face Karnataka at their home - the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Madhya Pradesh overcame an in-form Andhra Pradesh side after conceding a first-innings lead in a match that would be remembered more for a valiant Vihari who batted left-handed after a bone-cracking injury. Bengal defeated Jharkhand at the Eden Gardens by chasing a tiny target of 67 runs and will face Madhya Pradesh in the semifinals at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. 

Let's take a look at how these teams are shaping up ahead of their all-important semi-final clashes. 

Saurashtra vs Karnataka 

Venue - M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

The Saurashtra team will begin this semi-final in the absence of its regular skipper Jaydev Unadkat, who not only led Saurashtra to a title victory a few years ago but also defined the culture of the team with his bowling and leadership. The team will also miss the presence of Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara who contributed to the team’s success in the league stages. All three Saurashtra stalwarts are due to participate in the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy starting in Nagpur on the 9th of February. 

However, the stand-in skipper Arpit Vasavada sees this as an opportunity for the youngsters in the team to contribute and take responsibility, just like they did in the quarter-finals against Punjab. Parth Bhut put together a spectacular all-round show with a century and a fifty with the bat, and a fifer with the ball in the second innings as he broke Punjab’s batting spine along with his fellow left-arm spinner, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja who has already picked up 37 wickets in the season and plans to take his wicket tally to 45.

Although, the pitch they’ll encounter at the Chinnaswamy will not be similar to the one they got at Rajkot during that game against Punjab. In Bengaluru, their pacers including the likes of Chirag Jani, Chetan Sakariya, and pace bowling all-rounder Prerak Mankad would have a bigger role to play. Their top order was under the pump against Punjab, but Harvik Desai, Snell Patel, and Vasavda himself would like to take up the responsibility on their shoulders against a very good bowling side on their home ground.  

Karnataka and their captain Mayank Agarwal would be really happy with the way 22-year-old M. Venkatesh bowled on his debut against Uttarakhand, where he bagged a fifer. Along with the likes of Vijaykumar Vyshak and Vidwath Kaverappa, he can ensure that the batting order of Saurashtra remains under serious pressure on the green decks that Bengaluru has been dishing out. 

Despite the assistance for pacers, Karnataka scored 606 runs in the quarterfinals and they’ll take a lot of confidence from that. Mayank has trickled down the pecking order of Indian test openers, but his leadership has been quite good this season as he would like to make another big score and see his team through the finals. Shreyas Gopal, who proved his first-class batting credentials with a 161* against Uttarakhand would be key with both the bat and the ball.

Players to look out for - Chirag Jani, Parth Bhut, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Mayank Agarwal, M. Venkatesh, V. Kaverappa.

Bengal vs Madhya Pradesh 

Venue - Holkar Stadium, Indore

Bengal was able to brush aside Jharkhand with ease during the quarter-finals, but they are up against the defending champions Madhya Pradesh at the latter’s home ground in Indore. So far in this season of the Ranji Trophy, the pace trio of Ishan Porel, Akash Deep, and Mukesh Kumar have been quite effective and have bowled with penetration and accuracy. But in Indore where the ball grips and turns, their spinners - Shahbaz Ahmed and Pradipta Pramanik - would have to show their pedigree.

Shahbaz has been in good all-around form throughout the season and would like to emulate the same against MP. The Manoj Tiwary-led side has been able to win quite a few games in the season after being on the backfoot due to the rearguard effort provided by the 38-year-old experienced campaigner Anustup Mazumdar. He has been at the forefront of the Bengal batting lineup along with their classy opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, who would like to bat big during the semifinals, for Bengal to realise their dream of winning the coveted title. 

The defending champions survived a late scare against Andhra Pradesh and managed to close the game with 5 wickets remaining. As they have done throughout this season, they would bank on their star performers Rajat Patidar (averages 51 this season) and Avesh Khan (picked up 36 wickets so far), who both have been in stellar form throughout the season. 

However, the side coached by Chandrakant Pandit is also bolstered by the likes of Himanshu Mantri and Shubham Sharma who have stacked more than 500 runs each this season. Avesh will be well supported by the spinner Kumar Kartikeya and off-spinning all-rounder Saransh Jain along with the medium pace of Gaurav Yadav. 

Players to look out for - Abhimanyu Easwaran, Anustup Mazumdar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Rajat Patidar, Himanshu Mantri.

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