Defending champions Gujarat will have their task cut out as they lock horns with a determined Bengal unit in what promises to be a keen quarterfinal contest in the Ranji Trophy.
Gujarat cruised into the quarterfinals with five wins and a draw while amassing 34 points, the most by any team in the league stage.
- Ranji Trophy round-up: Tripura fall early, Delhi post mammoth score against Hyderabad
- Ranji Trophy round-up: Bengal on their way, Saurashtra tame Rajasthan; Mumbai enter quarters
- Ranji Trophy: Baroda hammer Tamil Nadu by 102 runs;MP,Mumbai qualify for last eight
- Ranji Trophy: Gujarat, Kerala qualify for quarterfinals from Group B
Two-time winners Bengal too looked determined to win their first Ranji title since 1989-90 as they dished out some superb performance this season.
However, they were dealt a big blow with their dependable batsman Sudip Chatterjee being ruled out of the match due to fever.
In his place, Saurabh Singh has been drafted into the team and the 20-year-old will be eager to fill in the shoes of Chatterjee and share the onus tomorrow.
Gujarat played just like the holders were expected to with last season's top run-getter Priyank Panchal hitting peak form heading into the last-eight stage.
Panchal topped the scoring chart in the league stage with 538 runs in six matches.
Experienced Parthiv Patel, who has been named in the India squad for the South Africa tour, on the other hand, has tallied 313 runs in eight innings, of which 173 came against Rajasthan, and that could be an area of concern for Gujarat.
The wicket-keeper batsman had five double-digit scores but failed to convert them. It will be his last competitive game before he heads to South Africa and the Gujarat skipper will be eager to use the occasion to get a big one.
Veteran legspinner Piyush Chawla, with 31 wickets in five games, has led the Gujarat bowling admirably. 17-year-old left-arm spinner Siddharth Desai has also shown with the red cheery, and the spinners were well supported by medium pacers Chintan Gaja and Kamlesh Thakor.
Gujarat will take comfort from the fact that they have rarely felt the absence of premier bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, mostly busy doing national duty, Axar Patel and Rush Kalaria, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
As far as Bengal are concerned, they made the final in 2005-06 and the following season, but fell short in the last hurdle. Under Manoj Tiwary's leadership, the team would look to do one better this time around.
Though the likes of Ashok Dinda (30 wickets in six matches) and Mohammed Shami, now doing national duty, shown with the ball, Bengal's strength certainly is their batting.
The onus will be on the likes of Abhishek Raman, Tiwary, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Saurabh to set up the game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium against a team that is high on confidence.
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (capt), Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shreevats Goswami (wk), Anustup Majumdar, Abhishek Raman, Amir Gani, Pradipta Pramanik, Ashok Dinda, Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar, Kanishk Seth, B Amit, Ritwik Chowdhury, Saurabh Singh, Writtick Chatterjee.
Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (capt & wk), Rujul Bhatt, Samit Gohel, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi, Dhruv Raval, Mehul Patel, Priyank Panchal, Piyush Chawla, Hardik Patel, Bhargav Merai, Ishwar Chaudhary, Chintan Gaja, Kamlesh Thakor, Siddharth Desai.
Kerala eye semifinals spot against Vidarbha
First-time entrants Kerala will look to seal a historic semifinal spot when they take on Vidarbha in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament at the Lalabhai Contractor Stadium.
It took them over 40 years to book their first-ever knockout berth after producing a spirited performance against Saurashtra and Haryana in their last two games in the group stage.
It was Sanju Samson's blistering 180-ball 175-run innings and some spectacular bowling by Jalaj S Saxena and S Joseph, which helped them outclass Saurashtra.
In the final match, Kerala notched up an innings and eight-run win over Haryana, riding on allrounder Jalaj's four wickets and 91-run knock.
With 38 wickets in six matches and 482 runs in 11 innings, Jalaj has emerged as the most effective player for Kerala and skipper Sachin Baby would expect another good performance from the offspinning allrounder.
Vidarbha, on the other hand, have made the knockouts thrice, including two successive quarter-final appearances in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
However, the only time they reached the semifinals was in 2011-12 and Faiz Fazal's men will look to put the best foot forward against Kerala to enter the last-four once again.
Vidarbha have relied on their batting might to bury their opponents. They have racked up 400-plus runs five times this season, riding on the performances of their top-order batsmen -- Fazal, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Ganesh Satish and Wasim Jaffer.
In bowling, the return of leg-spinner Karn Sharma will provide a boost to Vidarbha's spin department, which has been served by the trioka of Akshay Wakhare (27 wickets), Aditya Sarwate (18) and Akshay Karnewar (16).
Kerala too have depended on their spinners with two new left-arm tweakers KC Akshay (13 wickets in 2 matches) and Sijomon Joseph (19 in four matches) making a big impact.
Vidardha: Faiz Fazal (capt), Ganesh Satish, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Wasim Jaffer, Karn Sharma, Shalabh Shrivastava, Apurva Wankhede, Akshay Wadkar (wk), Akshay Wakhare, Akshay Karnewar, Siddhesh Wath, Aditya Sarwate, Rajneesh Gurbani, Lalit Yadav, Siddhesh Neral, Shubham Kapare, Suniket Bingewar.
Kerela: Arun Karthik, KM Asif, M Nidheesh, Rohan Prem, Sachin Baby (capt), Sanju Samson (wk), Mohammad Azharuddeen, Jalaj Saxena, Sijomon Joseph, Fabid Farooq, Vishnu Vinod, Sandeep Warrier, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh Menon, Mazar Moidu, KC Akshay.
Fancied Delhi face MP in Ranji quarterfinals
Former champions Delhi will fancy their chances when they take on Madhya Pradesh in their quarterfinal match of the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament.
Delhi remained unbeaten in the group phase and qualified for the quarterfinals as the runner-up side from Group A with 27 points from three wins and three draws.
They narrowly missed out on a win under controversial circumstances in their season opener against Assam but then went on to pick up three victories, two of them with bonus points.
After Gautam Gambhir refused to take up the captain's mantle, pacer Ishant Sharma was handed the job and he performed his role quite admirably, leading from the front and helping Delhi pick up 20 wickets in all four matches he skippered. That made a big difference in the team's performance.
Young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant took the captain's role after Ishant was called for national duty.
Though Pant is yet to produce the kind of match-winning performances that is expected of him, Delhi have been doing well in the batting front.
Gambhir has been in good touch at the top of the order, notching up two centuries and falling narrowly short of a third. Delhi's batting has been built around the veteran opener, with youngsters such as Nitish Rana too scoring the bulk of runs.
The prolific Rana is the top-scorer this season with 466 runs, which include two centuries.
The bowling has been shouldered by the likes of Vikas Mishra, Navdeep Saini and Manan Sharma.
One area of concern for Delhi has been the failure of both the openers to fire together on most occasions and they would look to change this aspect against Madhya Pradesh, who have come into the match as Group C toppers with 21 points (3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses).
The Naman Ojha-led MP side is also dealing with issue of poor show by the openers and it is worse than Delhi, with 72- run being their best opening stand. Their trademark feature this season has been the resilience shown by the middle and lower-order batsmen after the loss of early wickets.
With 444 runs so far, Harpreet Singh, MP's leading run- scorer this season, led the side's counterattack against Tamil Nadu with an unbeaten 100 that helped his team salvage a draw.
MP's bowling attack revolved around leg-spinner Mihir Hirwani (25 wickets) and all-rounder Ankit Sharma (17 wickets).