Ranji Trophy: Confident Punjab faces UP

The focus will be on star batsman Yuvraj Singh when Punjab and Uttar Pradesh clash in the Ranji Trophy Group A match at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on Saturday.

Yuvraj Singh scored 260 in Punjab's previous Ranji Trophy game against Baroda.   -  PTI

The focus will be on star batsman Yuvraj Singh once again when Punjab and Uttar Pradesh clash in the Ranji Trophy Group A match at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Saturday.

Yuvraj had done almost everything right this season with the bat in the four matches his team played in Ranji Trophy this season. But evidently, with the selection of the Indian squad for the first two Tests, the national selection panel has looked the other way.

But even this backdrop, the contest between two teams – Punjab with 10 points and UP with four points from four games each – shall still generate enough interest given the competition to be in the top two of the points at the end of the league phase.

Yuvraj (587 runs with a 260 and 177 besides a fifty), Manan Vohra (349 runs with a double ton and a fifty) and Uday Kaul (256 runs with three fifties) form a formidable batting line-up which is yet to see the gifted duo of Jiwanjot Singh and Gurkeerat Singh play big knocks.

Given the nature of the Hyderabad wicket over the years, they should relish the chance of batting first and help the team post a big total.

In bowling, Punjab’s leading wicket-takers have been medium-pacers Siddharth Kaul (20 wickets from four games), Sandeep Sharma (13 from four games) and Manpreet Gony (14 from three matches).

The left-arm spin of Vinay Choudhary and Yuvraj Singh and off-breaks of Gurkeerat could well be a suitable complement to the pace trio if they get the early breakthroughs.

Two losses in four games

For UP, seasoned campaigner Tanmay Srivastava (335 runs from four games with three fifties) has been the most consistent with the bat. UP has suffered two losses so far, and the team badly needs big contributions from the likes of Samarth Singh and Umang Sharma.

For UP, the new ball will be handled by Imtiaz Ahmed - its leading wicket-taker with 21 wickets from three games - and Ankit Rajpoot. But it is the left-arm spin of Kuldeep Yadav (19 wickets from four games) which could be key to the fortunes of the team in this contest.