Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Baroda holds edge over UP

With their superior all-round strength, Baroda appear to hold a slight edge over unbeaten Uttar Pradesh and seem well-poised to grab their third Mushtaq Ali Trophy, when the two teams clash under lights in the final of the domestic T20 competition.

Uttar Pradesh captain Suresh Raina and Baroda captain Irfan Pathan at the practic session on the eve of their Syed Musthaq Ali Twenty20 final match at Wankhede stadium.   -  Vivek Bendre

With their superior all-round strength, Baroda appear to hold a slight edge over unbeaten Uttar Pradesh and seem well-poised to grab their third Mushtaq Ali Trophy, when the two teams clash under lights in the final of the domestic T20 competition here tomorrow.

Baroda have lost two games out of 9 in the competition this season — to Delhi in the Preliminary League stage and then to Kerala in the Super League — while UP have won all their 8 matches so far.

But a man-to-man comparison shows that Baroda will hold a slight advantage over UP, when the two teams clash at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.

All rounders Hardik Pandya, who will leave for Australia on January 22 to join the Indian team ahead of the T20 series Down Under, and India discard Irfan Pathan, the team skipper, have been in the forefront of Baroda's campaign. Pandya has shone more with the bat, amassing 364 runs including two whirlwind, six-hitting knocks against Delhi and Vidarbha, while also grabbing nine wickets in nine games.

Left-handed Pathan, on the other hand, has impressed more with the ball by grabbing 16 wickets in nine games in which he has totalled 190 runs.

Both these players have been crucial to the progress of Baroda who, however, would expect a bit more from two other all-rounders — Deepak Hooda and Yusuf Pathan. Both have failed to prosper in the competition so far.

Baroda, champions in 2011-12 and 2013-14, also have a capable spinner in Bhargav Bhatt, and give the appearance of a well-balanced outfit.

UP's batting has been a bit inconsistent with Eklavya Dwivedi being the most impressive of the lot with 258 runs in 8 games at an average of 64 per innings.

Prashant Gupta and Samarth Singh have been the other two batsmen among the runs, but the big disappointment has been Australia-bound T20 specialist Suresh Raina who has made just 111 runs in five games with 28 as his highest.

The left-hander will be required to fire big if UP, who have never won the title, are to upset Baroda's bid to regain the trophy after a gap of one season.

In bowling, experienced former India leg-spinner Piyush Chawla has been the stand-out performer (15 wickets in 8 games). The crafty Praveen Kumar (5 wickets in 7), another national discard, has not done as much as was expected. Praveen has been outshone by Ankit Rajpoot (11 wickets in 8).

UP would be hoping that their misfiring key players - Raina and Praveen - have reserved their best for the tournament finale that commences at 6:30 PM.