Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra will be out to seal its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal spot when it hosts Andhra Pradesh in a sixth-round match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot from Tuesday.
Into his 13th year in senior cricket, Unadkat will mark a special moment when he takes the field for his 100th First-Class appearance on his home turf.
Placed comfortably atop the Elite Group B standings with 26 points from three wins and two draws, Saurashtra has emerged as the team to beat in a group where heavyweights have struggled with wavering form.
After two grinding draws, Saurashtra earned a morale-boosting win against second-placed Mumbai, without regular skipper Unadkat and Cheteshwar Pujara in late December.
Unadkat’s return to the side after his remarkable India Test call-up has bolstered Saurashtra’s results by a fair margin - it earned two successive innings wins for 14 points.
The left-arm seamer sizzled with a first-over hat-trick and claimed his best First-Class bowling figures (8/39) against Delhi before jolting a wobbly Hyderabad with six wickets last week.
Saurashtra’s batting has hinged on its collective success rather than trailblazers hogging the charts. However, with the impending Border-Gavaskar Tests, India’s batting mainstay Pujara will be in focus after his lowly 25 in the previous round.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh (14 points) is ranked fourth in a group where Mumbai and Maharashtra are battling for the second knockout spot beside Saurashtra.
Andhra’s focus could shift to maintaining its lead over bottom-ranked Delhi and Hyderabad to prevent relegation to the Plate Group next season.
Coming off a dispiriting draw against Delhi, Hanuma Vihari’s men will also miss the services of wicketkeeper KS Bharat, who received a call-up to India’s squad for the New Zealand ODIs.
Saurashtra spinners Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and off-spinner Yuvrajsinh Dodiya will also pose a stern test for Andhra as the game progresses at a venue where hefty first-innings totals have been a norm.