Ranji Trophy pre-quarters: Jharkhand challenge for gutsy Nagaland

After losing its first match to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand stunned Delhi and Tamil Nadu in Elite Group-H matches in Guwahati to gather 12 points.

Jharkhand captain Saurabh Tiwary and team-mates after the victory over Tamil Nadu.   -  RITU RAJ KONWAR

Jharkhand will carry forward its confidence after toppling two bigger teams and Nagaland will bank on its self-belief as the Plate topper when they lock horns in the lone Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinal match starting at the Eden Gardens here from Saturday.

After losing its first match to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand stunned Delhi and Tamil Nadu in Elite Group-H matches in Guwahati to gather 12 points. It missed out on a direct qualification berth as Uttarakhand, which had identical points but a better quotient, made the cut for the quarterfinals.

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Nagaland, which secured three consecutive outright wins including an innings victory here, collected 19 points and earned the right to play with an Elite side for the first time.

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The north-eastern state has been seriously working on its cricket development under the guidance of former Hyderabad spinner Kanwaljit Singh. It has succeeded in producing some home grown talent.

“The boys have come a long way. Qualifying (for the knockouts) is a huge incentive for the team,” said coach Kanwaljit.

Nagaland’s progress this season primarily rested on some consistent performers. They included professionals like leading scorers Shrikant Mundhe and Chetan Bist and local players such as captain Rongsen Jonathan, a batter who has also done well in his new role as an off-spinner, left-arm spinner and a handy all-rounder Imliwati Lemtur and top batter Hokaito Zhimomi.

Kanwalijit feels his team has the adequate resources, including Mundhe, Abu Nechim, Raja Swarnakar and Nagaho Chishi, to make the most of the assistance the Eden track promises.

Jharkhand too has some effective pacers in Rahul Shukla, Ashish Kumar and young left-arm pacer Sushant Mishra who can exploit the conditions.

Experienced spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and his young partner Anukul Roy are there to provide support.

The batters, such as Virat Singh, Utkarsh Singh, Kumar Suraj, Nazim Siddiqui and Saurabh Tiwary, have displayed their capabilities and would like to keep up their good work.

“After beating Delhi and Tamil Nadu, the team’s confidence is high and we want to continue with the winning momentum. We will not take Nagaland, which has also topped its group, lightly,” said Jharkhand coach Satish Singh.

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