Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinals: Karnataka faces well-oiled Saurashtra; Ruturaj, Parag in focus in SF2

Karnataka will face an uphill task when it goes up against Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra in Wednesday’s first semifinal of the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Ahmedabad.

Fresh from his record-breaking 220* on return, Maharashtra captain Ruturaj Gaikwad will be in focus against in-form Assam in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal on Wednesday.

Fresh from his record-breaking 220* on return, Maharashtra captain Ruturaj Gaikwad will be in focus against in-form Assam in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Karnataka will face an uphill task when it goes up against Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra in Wednesday’s first semifinal of the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Ahmedabad.

For the third time in five days, Karnataka will enter the gigantic Narendra Modi Stadium, hoping to register a hat-trick of wins and enter its fifth Vijay Hazare Trophy final. But the task will be humongous as it will be up against Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra in Wednesday’s semifinal, the adopted team at the venue with Gujarat having failed to progress beyond the league stage.

During Saurashtra’s quarterfinal victory against Tamil Nadu in Nadiad on Monday, it enjoyed an overwhelming support from the locals. Should a handful of Amdavadis turn up at Motera on Wednesday, the story will be no different.

The well-oiled Saurashtra outfit will realise that mere crowd support will not be enough for it to keep its quest of maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy title alive. Its last three encounters against Karnataka, including the 2017-18 final, ended in a losing cause.

Unadkat will hope his specialist batters put up a consistent show in order to take the pressure off lower middle-order. Harvik Desai and Samarth Vyas have been consistent with the willow while Jay Gohil justified his call-up from the Cooch Behar campaign with a vital knock against Tamil Nadu.

If veteran Sheldon Jackson, who has been asked to open recently to negotiate the early morning movement, comes good, then Saurashtra will hope to enter its first final since that disheartening loss in Delhi almost five years ago.

Karnataka, too, will hope for a similar effort from its senior pros. While R. Samarth has found his touch with successive fifties in the knockouts, captain Mayank Agarwal and stalwart Manish Pandey are yet to live up to their reputation. Both cannot ask for a better bowling attack and occasion to come good.

While the batting has been shaky, it’s the bowling that has been the main weapon for both the outfits. V. Koushik (17 wickets) and Vidwath Kaverappa (16) - the swing masters - are second and third, respectively, in the highest wicket-takers’ chart.

Saurashtra’s main spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (15) and captain Unadkat (14) aren’t too far apart either. It’s obvious that the batting group that negotiates with the opposition bowling attack will in all likelihood enter the big final.

Ruturaj vs Riyan

While the batters in the main stadium will be hoping to fire, it will be exactly the opposite scenario yards away at the NMS ‘B’ ground, where Maharashtra and Assam will again bank on its star batters to sizzle.

The competition between Ruturaj Gaikwad, who scored an unbeaten 220 to set up its victory against Uttar Pradesh at the same venue will, and Riyan Parag, whose 174 made a mockery of a target of 351 set by Jammu & Kashmir at the Gujarat College ground, could well be decisive for both the teams’ hopes of entering its maiden final.

Semifinal line-up:

At Narendra Modi Stadium: Karnataka vs Saurashtra.

At Narendra Modi Stadium ‘B’ Ground: Maharashtra vs Assam.

Live on Star network and Disney+ Hotstar from 9 a.m.

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