Ranji Trophy: Can Services stop Andhra's march?

Andhra's astute bowlers complemented its solid batting line-up in its two back-to-back victories in Mumbai. Services, winless so far, should improve itself to stop halt Andhra's march.

andhra ranji

Andhra coach N. Sanath Kumar (centre) with captain Hanuma Vihari (left) and medium-pacer D. Siva Kumar.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

Andhra, after registering back-to-back victories on Mumbai soil, is keen to continue its winning streak at the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh - Indore - when it faces the lowly-placed Services in the Group C Ranji Trophy fixture at Holkar Stadium on Saturday.

A fine team effort with some sparkling individual performances saw Andhra register two crucial and convincing wins in the first half of the tournament.

Two bowlers – the nippy, gentle medium pacer Siva Kumar and left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt - stood out in the bowling department with their astute wicket-taking abilities. Siva Kumar, with 20 scalps, has emerged as the top wicket-taker for his team in the tournament so far.

The game plan to use Siva as the strike bowler for the last two matches paid rich dividends as he took as many as 14 wickets including a five-wicket haul. Bhargav Bhatt (16), who bagged nine wickets against Jammu and Kashmir, played a pivotal role in Andhra’s first victory of the season.

Opener D. B. Prasanth (304 runs), skipper Hanuma Vihari (269) and B. Ravi Teja (265) exhibited fine temperament and technique with their willows.

Andhra will worry about opener K. S. Bharat's poor run (128 from four outings). Barring his 57 against Chhattisgarh, the dashing opener is yet to play a significant knock.

Ricky Bhui’s return to the team is likely to delay as the cricketer, who is recuperating at the National Cricket Academy, is advised rest for a couple of weeks more.

Andhra team management has decided to bring in medium pacers B. Ayyappa and Ch. Stephen and will be resting the experienced pacer Vijay Kumar.

“More than the individual milestones, I believe in partnerships. We need to register more partnerships and also plan to dominate each session,” felt coach Sanath Kumar.

Young Services team, which is yet to register its first win of the season, will largely depend on the in-form Rahul Singh (484) who has already cracked a huge 185 against Tripura. Middle-order batsman U. V. Yadav is also among runs with 278 including a century. “Ours is a young team with half a dozen greenhorns. It will take some time to gel as a team. We also failed to capitalize on the crunch situations,” said Coach Raju Singh

He said the wicket would help batsmen who show temperament more than technique. "The wicket will also help the spinners from day three," he predicted.

The teams:

Andhra: G. Hanuma Vihari (captain), K.S. Bharat, D.B. Prasanth Kumar, D.B. Ravi Teja, M.U.B. Sriram, D. Siva Kumar, P. Vijay Kumar, Ch. Stephen, B. Ayyappa, I. Karthik Raman, K. Sreekanth, Bhargav Bhatt, T. Vamsi Krishna, B. Siddharth Prasad, A.G. Pradeep and Aswin Hebbar.

Services: Soumik Chatterjee (captain), Azaruddin Bloch, Anshul Gupta, Vikas Hathwala, Muzzaffaruddin Khalid, Nakul Sharma, Diwesh Pathania, Rahul Singh, Raushan Raj, Raj Bahadur, Ravi Chauhan, Nakul Verma, S. U. Yadav, V. U. Yadav, Sachitanand Pandey.