Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: UP aim to ease through to final

Uttar Pradesh, led by Suresh Raina, top Super League Group B with two out of two wins and a healthy net run rate of +0.950. They face Delhi at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai.

Suresh Raina in action during Uttar Pradesh's match on Friday against Jharkhand in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He is set to join the T20 squad in India's ongoing tour of Australia.   -  PTI

Soon after Uttar Pradesh cruised to their second straight win in the Super League (Group ‘B’) of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy on Saturday, skipper Suresh Raina had an air of confidence about him. “The boys are playing well. But we have two more games to go, including the final that is. Hopefully we’ll get there,” he said.

Raina hasn’t had much to do over the past few days. His bowlers, led by the wily Praveen Kumar, have done well to restrict Jharkhand to 133 for seven and Gujarat to 165 for six, respectively. The batsmen have barely broken a sweat, with opener Samarth Singh easing his way to consecutive 60s. On his part, Raina has scored 21 and 20 not out, both in quick time. Set to make a comeback in the T20 series in Australia, Raina will hope to strike a rich vein of form by taking Uttar Pradesh all the way.

A healthy net run-rate (NRR) of +0.950 will only help their cause against an inspired Delhi outfit in the third and last round of games at the Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy in Bandra-Kurla Complex on Monday. Second-placed Gujarat will take on Jharkhand, which is out of the race, in the first match of the day. Senior pros Parthiv Patel and RP Singh have led from the front, and the youngsters like Manpreet Juneja and Rush Kalaria, have responded well.

With a facile win against Delhi in the first round, Parthiv Patel’s Gujarat is in second place (NRR: +0.279). Delhi, who got their campaign back on track thanks to the intelligent batting of Nitish Rana, against Jharkhand, also has four points to boot. But with an NRR of +0.008, they will first have to hope that Gujarat loses to Jharkhand, and then beat Uttar Pradesh first by a big margin to be able to stake a claim for a spot in Wednesday’s final.

Raina will certainly take it upon himself to ensure that Uttar Pradesh don’t miss out on this golden opportunity. He has obviously set larger goals for himself, like the short tour of Australia and the World T20. “I am looking forward to playing against Australia and I’m keen to do well there. It is a big tournament for us. We have done really well in T20 cricket. I think it is important to win those three games in Australia and get back our confidence before we come back to India.”

How about winning two more games for Uttar Pradesh first?

PLAYING ON MONDAY

Super League ( Group B)

At the Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy in Bandra-Kurla Complex:

Gujarat vs Jharkhand (9 am), Delhi vs Uttar Pradesh (1 pm)