The race for knockouts qualification intensifies as the Ranji Trophy 2023–24 season enters the last round of the group stage after producing a thrilling round six that was decorated with enthralling draws, spectacular wins, heart-wrenching losses, and enriching cricket.
The sixth round of 2023–24 Ranji Trophy matches ended on Monday with Services, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Railways, Saurashtra, Kerala, Vidarbha, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Assam registering wins in the Elite division.
From the Plate division, Hyderabad, which was relegated in the 2022–23 season after losing six out of its seven games, registered an innings victory over Nagaland and made its way back into the Elite Group. The other finalist, Meghalaya, secured an outright win against Mizoram and will compete in the Elite group next season. Hyderabad and Meghalaya will be playing in the Plate Final on February 17.
Qualification scenarios explained
The top two teams from the four elite groups will directly qualify for the quarterfinals after playing seven league games. The bottom two teams from the four elite groups will be relegated at the end of the group stage.
Similarly, for the Plate Group, the top teams will play the semifinals (First vs Fourth, Second vs Third) and the winners of the last four stages will play the Plate Group final.
How does the points system work?
A team that secures an outright win gains six points, while a team winning the match by an innings or by 10 wickets gets one bonus point (7).
Teams that finish the match with a first innings lead but no outright win will be awarded three points, and teams losing on first innings basis will score one point.
In case of a tie on the first innings without an outright result, teams will get one point, and in a scenario where a tie happens after completion of both the innings, teams will get three points.
Team positions after Round 6
Elite Group A
(Teams: Vidarbha, Haryana, Saurashtra, Services, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Manipur)
In Group A, defending champion Saurashtra will have to secure another outright win despite registering a massive 218-run victory over Rajasthan in its latest encounter. With 22 points, it is in a tight race with Haryana (24 points). It will face Manipur in the final group stage match that begins on February 19.
Vidarbha, having beaten Maharashtra convincingly by 10 wickets in round six, takes the Group A pole position with 27 points and is poised to enter the knockout stage having registered four wins and losing just one match and playing a draw. It next faces Haryana in Nagpur and will aim to continue its dominance.
Haryana, too, is in the race to make the quarterfinals after hammering Jharkhand by an innings and 205 runs. With three wins, one loss, and two draws, Haryana has 24 points and will next face Vidarbha with an eye on the knockout berth. An outright win might pole-vault the Ashok Menaria-led side into the knock-outs.
Services is tied on 22 points with Saurashtra and has its qualification chances with an innings and 196 runs against Manipur. It next faces Maharashtra, which is all but out of race along with the likes of Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Manipur.
Elite Group B
(Teams: Mumbai, Andhra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Assam, Bihar)
Mumbai is back in business, and with 30 points, it is guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals. The Ajinkya Rahane-led side started with three straight wins against Bihar, Andhra, and Kerala before losing to Uttar Pradesh in the fourth round. The 41-time Ranji Trophy winner bounced back to beat Bengal by an innings and four runs before Chhattisgarh forced a draw in Raipur.
Sitting pretty behind the domestic heavyweight is Andhra with 25 points under its belt. The Hanuma Vihari-led side started its campaign with a draw against Andhra on the coast of Visakhapatnam before hitting the straps with three wins over Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Assam. It did come under fire against Mumbai, losing the match, but recovered well to play a draw against Bengal and stay put in the race for a quarterfinal berth.
Other teams not performing have also helped both Mumbai and Andhra, as Kerala, with an indifferent outing is a distant third with just 14 points despite winning its round six match against Bengal. However, the four draws against Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh didn’t boost the Sanju Samson-led side, and the massive 232-run loss against Mumbai only dented its chances of making it to the knockout stage.
Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, with 13 points each, stand no chance of advancing beyond Round seven, along with Bengal, Assam, and Bihar.
Elite Group C
(Teams: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Railways, Tripura, Punjab, Chandigarh & Goa)
Karnataka side almost won a thriller against Tamil Nadu at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, but Baba Aparajith and Vijay Shankar helped their side overcome the sixth-round scare with a defiant 125-run partnership for the sixth wicket that nullified Karnataka’s chances of securing an outright win. A match that went down the wire till dusk, ended in a draw.
For its final league game at least, Karnataka will miss the services of Devdutt Padikkal, who smashed a brilliant 151 against Tamil Nadu, as the 23-year-old southpaw has been included in the India Test squad as a replacement for KL Rahul.
Rahul, who picked up a right quadriceps injury, is continuing his recovery at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru and has been ruled out of the third Test against England in Rajkot, starting February 15.
Indrajith stages the rescue act
Indrajith missed a century by just two runs but made sure Tamil Nadu didn’t lose the plot, especially at home, and salvaged a draw. Both the southern domestic heavyweights are in contention for a place in the quarterfinals, with Karnataka leading the table with 24 points after winning three, losing one, and playing two draws.
Karnataka began well with a seven-wicket win over Punjab before going down to Gujarat by a narrow margin of six runs. It then played a draw against Goa before thumping Tripura and Railways by 29 runs and one wicket, respectively. It next hosts Chandigarh in Hubli.
Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, has won three games and, with 22 points, is en route to making its way into the knockouts. The R. Sai Kishore-led side registered its biggest win so far by securing an innings and 293-run victory against Chandigarh, which helped the side keep its nose ahead of other teams.
Registering wins against Railways and Goa meant it only suffered a single loss so far against Gujarat but bounced back strongly to stay in contention. The draw against Karnataka in round six would boost confidence among the players, who showed spine and character with their backs against the wall in the southern derby. There is no need for soul searching or inspiration as Indrajith (98, 194b, 3x4) with his heroics with the bat, stunned critics and inspired his mates. What a thriller! It next plays Punjab, and the Salem curator has a job in his hands.
Gujarat has an outside chance, as despite winning three games, it just has 19 points and faces Goa in its last league game in Porvorim. The two losses against Railways and Tripura have dented the Chintan Gaja-led side massively. Railways, Tripura, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Goa will be restricted to playing just the final round, harbouring aspirations for a knock--out match, next season.
Elite Group D
(Teams: Madhya Pradesh, Baroda, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Puducherry, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh)
Madhya Pradesh takes pole position with three wins and as many draws as with 26 points, the Shubham Sharma-led side is poised to stake a claim in the quarterfinals. Not losing a match comes as a boon for Madhya Pradesh, as it salvaged two draws against Uttarakhand and Odisha before belting out wins against Delhi and Pondicherry.
The side played a draw against Himachal Pradesh and then won its latest encounter against Baroda by an innings and 52 runs to warm-up for its final league game against Jammu and Kashmir in Indore.
Baroda, with 23 points, is another contender for the knock-outs but suffered an innings defeat to group-toppers Madhya Pradesh. Two wins and two draws makes the Vishnu Solanki side a force to reckon with. It’s next challenge is against Uttarakhand as the team will travel to the hills and will look to secure a win against the scenic backdrops of Dehradun.
Standing third and giving a tough fight is Jammu and Kashmir, producing exceptional results. A knockout berth is certain in the future and even now, based on mathematical calculations, one cannot rule it out. In a sensational win against Pondicherry, left-arm spinners Abid Mushtaq and Vanshraj Sharma snarred match hauls of 10-wicket each and scripted history to knock out Pondicherry.
The duo shared 20 wickets among themselves as the Shubham Khajuria-led side leapfrogged to the third position, ahead of Uttarakhand, Delhi, Pondicherry, Odisha, and Himachal Pradesh. While the rest of the team’s performances are understandable given the lack of experience both in players and coaching staff, Delhi’s fall has been deplorable.
Pondicherry took a trip to the national capital and prospered in cold conditions, with the track being their ally, aiding swing and purchase. Right-arm medium pacer Gaurav Yadav starred with a 10-wicket match haul to leave the Yash Dhull-led side pondering issues both on and off the field as Pondicherry packed their bags back home with a fine nine-wicket win. Pondicherry whipped and cracked the spine of Delhi’s Ranji Trophy unit, with medium-pacers Yadav and Abin Mathew dishing out a fairy tale on chilly January mornings and breaching the fort of Kotla.
- PKL 10 Semifinal 2, Jaipur Pink Panthers vs Haryana Steelers: Road to semifinal, head-to-head, all you need to know
- PKL 10 Semifinal 1, Puneri Paltan vs Patna Pirates: Road to semifinal, head-to-head, all you need to know
- Shreyas Iyer included in Mumbai squad for Ranji Trophy semifinals
- WPL 2024: Star-studded opening ceremony kick starts second season in Bengaluru
- R. Ashwin: The formidable match-winner enters the 500-wickets club