As the country's premier domestic tournament reaches its business end, the tweakers continue to dominate the wickets tally with Bengal's Ashoke Dinda (30 wickets from six matches) being the lone pacer in the top 5 wicket-takers this season.
Ahead of Thursday's crucial encounters, we find out how the top wicket-takers from each of the eight quarterfinalists stack up.
Jalaj Saxena (Kerala) An innings-and-eight-run win against Haryana meant Kerala finished second in Group B with 31 points from six matches, three points adrift of table topper Gujarat. And Kerala's success could be put down, partly, to the form right-arm off-spinner Jalaj Saxena. Jalaj, who has 38 wickets from six matches at an economy rate of 2.25, is the top wicket-getter so far and Kerala's semifinal chances will hinge on how he bowls in Surat. The 30-year-old, a veteran of 98 first-class matches, has 256 wickets at an economy rate of 2.83. This season Jalaj has lapped up three five-fors and two 10-wicket hauls and Vidarbha will have to bat out of its skin to overcome the in-form spinner.
Krishnappa Gowtham (Karnataka) Off-spinner K. Gowtham's 7 for 72 was instrumental in Karnataka beating Railways by a whopping 209 runs to book a quarterfinal clash with 41-time Ranji champion Mumbai. The 29-year-old recorded his career-best match figures of 10 for 142 as he ran through the opposition middle-order — dismissing all seven batsmen either bowled or lbw. K. Gowtham, who has 27 wickets from six matches at an economy rate of 3, will be key to putting batting powerhouse Mumbai to the sword.
Ashoke Dinda (Bengal) Having made his first-class debut for Bengal in 2005, Dinda has risen through the ranks with his consistent pace. And while he may have fallen out of favour with the Indian selectors, the 33-year-old continues to be a vital cog in Bengal's bowling wheel. Dinda's 30 wickets from six matches at an economy rate of 2.84 ensured Bengal made it to the quarterfinals from Group D. Early in the season, he paired with India pace spearhead Mohamed Shami to grab a bonus-point win over Chhatisgarh. Dinda left the opposition in tatters with a 10-for in the match, seven of those coming in Chhattisgarh's first innings. As Bengal braces for Gujarat's challenge, all eyes will be on Dinda and his exploits with the ball could very well decide Bengal's fortunes in the upcoming days.
Piyush Chawla (Gujarat) Gujarat, the only team which boasts of two spinners in the top wickets tally, will be hoping leg-spinner Piyush Chawla continues to torment batters with his guile and turn. The 28-year-old has 31 wickets from five matches at an economy rate of 3.33. Alongside debutant Siddharth Desai — the left-arm spinner with 28 wickets — Chawla lends variety to Gujarat's spin department. With three five-fors under his belt, the Parthiv Patel-led unit would hope its premier spinner can summon his variations and control to propel the team into the semifinals.
Dhawal Kulkarni (Mumbai) Dhawal Kulkarni's four-for against Tripura in Mumbai's crushing 10-wicket win ensured the Aditya Tare-led unit remained in contention for a record 42nd title. The right-arm medium pacer, who has 19 wickets from five matches at an economy rate of 2.74 , will need to bring out his A game against a Karnataka side which has earned the reputation of steamrolling opposition bowlers this season.
Vikas Mishra (Delhi) Adding further gloss to spinners' record this season is left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra whose 24 wickets from four matches at an economy rate of 2.98 has been one of the highlights of Delhi's campaign this year. In its last match against Hyderabad, which Delhi drew, Mishra's five-wicket haul thwarted Hyderabad's progress. Mishra took four wickets on the final day including the prized scalps of captain Ambati Rayudu and Sandeep to ensure a quarterfinal contest against Madhya Pradesh.
Akshay Anil Wakhare (Vidarbha) Akshay Wakhare's five-for and an overall match tally of 9 for 104 helped Vidarbha beat Goa with a bonus point — the resulting innings and 37-run win securing Vidarbha's knockout berth. The right arm off-spinner's 27 wickets from five matches at an economy rate of 2.64 has been pivotal to Vidarbha gaining four outright results in five matches and will hold the side in good stead when it takes on Kerala.
Mihir Hirwani (Madhya Pradesh) Legspinner Mihir Hirwani's 25 wickets from six games at an economy rate of 3.39 saw MP top Group C with 21 points from six games. The leggie alongwith left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma forms a formidable spin duo — one which could test Delhi's batsmen to the hilt.
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