Ranji Trophy: Karnataka looks to seal quarters berth

Karnataka sits fourth (24 points) on the combined Elite A and B table, closer to Andhra (27) in top spot than it is to fifth-placed Bengal (20).

With the exception of Devdutt Padikkal (504 runs from 11 innings), no Karnataka batsman has tallied over 300 runs.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

In the space of 30 remarkable overs at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi last week, Karnataka engineered a win out of nowhere. The result brought Karun Nair's men seven points, and with it some much-needed relief. Karnataka now sits fourth (24 points) on the combined Elite A and B table, closer to Andhra (27) in top spot than it is to fifth-placed Bengal (20).

With two home games left, starting with a clash against Madhya Pradesh at the KSCA Navule Stadium here from Tuesday, Karnataka will be fairly relaxed about the prospect of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The batting group, however, has much to ponder. The team is still waiting for its first centurion this season and with the exception of Devdutt Padikkal (504 runs from 11 innings), no batsman has tallied over 300 runs. There have been mitigating circumstances, with conditions not always ideal for run-making, but coach Yere Goud — who oversaw training in the blistering heat on Monday — will demand more from his batsmen.

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The Navule pitch had a significant covering of grass on match-eve, and both camps believe there will be much assistance for pace-bowlers on the opening two days. Ronit More, who was at the vanguard of Karnataka's final-day ambush of Railways, will be eager to attack, as will Abhimanyu Mithun and Prateek Jain; it remains to be seen if the team management opts to rest any of the three.

Dwindling fortunes

Madhya Pradesh, though, is hamstrung by the absence of its fast-bowling lynchpin Avesh Khan, who is away in New Zealand with the India-A side. Khan is his side's leading wicket-taker this campaign with 28 victims, and a genuine quick; he will be missed.

Madhya Pradesh is languishing at the bottom of Group B, with only eight points from six games, and faces a real threat of relegation to Group C. It is, therefore, mystifying that the touring side has travelled without pace-bowler Ishwar Pandey and regular captain Naman Ojha, both of whom have been rested. Karnataka will not be complaining. Another outright victory should more or less guarantee a quarterfinal berth.

Group A: Delhi v Gujarat (New Delhi); Punjab v Andhra (Patiala); Rajasthan v Bengal (Jaipur); Vidarbha v Kerala (Nagpur).

Group B: Baroda v Tamil Nadu (Vadodara); Karnataka v Madhya Pradesh (Shimoga); Railways v Himachal (New Delhi); Saurashtra v Mumbai (Rajkot).

Group C: Haryana v Assam (Lahli); Jharkhand v Chhattisgarh (Jamshedpur); Maharashtra v Odisha (Pune); Tripura v Jammu & Kashmir (Agartala); Uttarakhand v Services (Dehradun).

Plate: Arunachal Pradesh v Bihar (Patna); Chandigarh v Mizoram (Chandigarh); Manipur v Pondicherry (Kolkata); Meghalaya v Sikkim (Mangaldoi); Nagaland v Goa (Dimapur).

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