Ranji trophy: Punjab faces tough ask against group leader Andhra

Home conditions will be crucial for Punjab as it takes on table-topper Andhra Pradesh in the Elite Group A clash in the Ranji Trophy.

Stephen (left), 23 wickets in four matches, and Sasikanth (centre), 32 wickets in five, have been crucial to Andhra's fortunes. (File image)   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Host Punjab would aspire to capitalise on the home conditions to elevate itself from the fourth place in Elite group ‘A’ standings, when it takes on group leader Andhra Pradesh, in the four-day Ranjit Trophy league match at the Dhruv Pandove Stadium here from Tuesday.

Appearances can be deceptive as it was when the sun was beating down in the green environment of the stadium, albeit with its dilapidated stands, on Monday, suggesting an enjoyable outing for both the teams.

Head coach of the Punjab team, Munish Bali said that the team was keen to win maximum points, the way it had done against Hyderabad in the last outing at the same venue.

‘’We want to get all points possible to ensure qualification for the knock-out stage. Our team is young and eager. Except for four players, it is basically an under-23 team’’, said Bali, on the eve of the match, after the team’s training session.

Punjab had won its first two matches against Rajasthan and Hyderabad.
Thereafter the team took the first innings lead against Vidarbha in Nagpur and against Delhi in Mohali. It did lose the match against Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram, and the one against Gujarat in Valsad.

It is time for revival, as the team looked forward to the pitch and the conditions, working in favour.

‘’It will be foggy and cold. Typical North Indian conditions at this time of the year. We did very well to win by an innings and 125 runs against Hyderabad. We were able to bat for a 400-plus total and bowled out the opponents for 76 in their second innings. There will be movement for medium pacers, and the pitch would also help spinners’’, observed the Punjab coach.

By beating Rajasthan by six wickets in Jaipur, Andhra has already shown that it can tackle the cold in the North. The team is sitting on top of the table because of its ability to deal with different opponents in difficult conditions.

Apart from beating Rajasthan, Andhra has beaten Kerala, Hyderabad and Delhi. Except for letting Bengal and Vidarbha to take the first innings lead, Andhra has handled all its matches with considerable assurance.

If the team handles the early part of every day when the conditions can really tease even the batsmen with the best technique, Andhra can deal with Punjab in its own terms.

In all, it should be a lively battle between the group leader Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab, which is the fourth best team behind Gujarat and Bengal.

The teams (from)

Andhra Pradesh: Ricky Bhui, CR Gnaneswar, DB Prasanth Kumar, KV Sasikanth, S Ashish, Karan Shinde, Y Pruthvi Raj, B Sumath, UMS Girinath, N Jyothi Sai Krishna, Md. Shoaib Khan, D Swaroop Kumar, A Vinay Kumar, M Pranith, SMD Rafi.

Punjab: Sanvir Singh, Abhijeet Garg, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Mandeep Singh, Anmolpreet Singh, Anmol Malhotra, Mayank Markande, Sharad Lumba, Siddharth Kaul, Baltej Singh, Vinay Choudhary, Rohan Marwaha, Harpreet Brar, Abhishek Gupta, Krishan Alang.

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