Ranji Trophy: Saurashtra ready to taste Andhra swing

The open space at the CSR Sharma College Ground offers a lot of swing due to the coastal breeze, even in late afternoon; the quarterfinal is set for a pace battle.

Saurashtra's leading wicket-taker and pace bowler Jaydev Unadkat at the training session on the eve of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Andhra.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Saurashtra, the runner-up of the last season, scores on consistency. But Andhra had a season to remember so far. It fought tooth-and-nail to win the last ticket to the knockouts; after four years. Overwhelmed by its dream run, the locals are calling it the clash of the evens.

Andhra competed rough and tough in this Ranji Trophy season. It registered victories against Delhi, Hyderabad, Rajasthan and Kerala, and three out of those four conquests happened at the CSR Sharma College Ground here. On Thursday, when it meets Saurashtra for the quarterfinal, the pressure will be on the visiting side.

The back story of the venue renders a noir sort of a premise to the red ball battle. Ongole, in the Prakasam district of Andhra, is known for a particular breed of cattle that are used for bull fights in Mexico and some parts of East Africa. On top of that, the stadium is built on a burial ground. The area used to be infested with wild animals, venomous snakes and criminals.

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The home team perhaps imbibed the ferocity of the raging bull to turn the tide on the same land, now a seam-friendly track. Fast bowling has been Andhra’s strength and it will be keen to exploit the pack led by K.V. Sasikanth, who already has 35 wickets from seven outings. The nature of the wicket could also benefit Saurashtra going by the electric form of skipper Jaydev Unadkat. The left-armer has been on a six-for spree and is currently the third-highest wicket-taker (51 in seven outings) in the season. He is likely to finish on top as no other bowler, among the sides in the knockout, are close.

On the batting front, the host will miss the services of Hanuma Vihari who is out on national duty, but Ricky Bhui and K.S. Bharat’s consistency augurs well for the side. Opener C.R. Gnaneshwar will be expected to provide a solid start. However, none of their batters have crossed the 500-run mark in the tournament.

Saurashtra will expect the in-form Sheldon Jackson to fire. With 605 runs in seven outings, the right-hander is the best man to do the job in Cheteshwar Pujara’s absence.

Andhra ended the league stage with two losses in a row, to Punjab and Gujarat, and it will be looking for amends straight-up from the first session on Day One.

Teams (from)

Andhra: K.S. Bharat (capt/wk), R. Bhui, C.R. Gnaneshwar, D.B. Prashanth Kumar, B. Sumanth, M. Shoaib Khan, K.V. Sasikanth, Y.P. Raj, S.M. Rafi, A.Vinay Kumar,K. Nitish Kumar Reddy, J. Sai, K. Shinde, P. Girinath Reddy, C.H. Stephen, M. Praneeth

Saurashtra: J. Unadkat (c), S. Jackson, H. Desai, K. Parmar, V. Jadeja, A. Barot, A. Vasavada, S. Vyas, P. Mankad, C. Jani, D. Jadeja, K. Patel, K. Makvana, S. Patel, C. Sakariya, P. Bhut

 

Andhra's road to QF

Drew with Vidarbha

Beat Delhi by 9 wickets

Drew with Bengal

Beat Rajasthan by 6 wickets

Beat Hyderabad by an innings and 96 runs

Beat Kerala by 7 wickets

Lost to Punjab by 4 wickets

Lost to Gujarat by 8 wickets

Saurashtra's road to QF

Beat Himachal Pradesh by 5 wickets

Beat Railways by an innings and 90 runs

Lost to Uttar Pradesh by an innings and 72 runs

Drew with Karnataka

Drew with Madhya Pradesh

Beat Baroda by 4 wickets

Drew with Mumbai

Drew with Tamil Nadu