Ranji Trophy playoffs: Bonus-point wins needed for Bengal and Himachal

As the final round of the group stage begins on Monday,10 teams from Elite Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ would be vying for the quarterfinal spot.

Bengal needs a bonus point win to make it to the playoffs.   -  PTI

For a spot in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals, teams from Elite Groups A and B would need to secure a slot in the top five of the combined points table.

Ahead of the ninth round of the tourney, 10 teams are in contention for a spot in the top five. However, Kerala, Baroda and Punjab, the teams occupying the eight, ninth and 10th positions, respectively, would have to win their upcoming contests with a bonus point and hope other results go their way.

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Baroda and Punjab face in-form opponents; while Baroda takes on Karnataka, currently second with 27 points and riding a crest of a wave with two wins in a row, Punjab locks horns with Bengal, which is currently in the seventh position with 22 points.

After its stunning victory over Delhi, Bengal will be fancying its chances against Punjab. If it wins with a bonus point, it will be through.

Group A and B Top-10

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Kerala, on the other hand, faces a side that suffered a defeat in its last contest. After winning three matches in a row, Himachal got a reality check in the eighth round of matches. It was defeated by Madhya Pradesh in Indore. But if Himachal bounces back at home, with a bonus-point win, it will be through.

Since the top 10 teams are separated by just eight points, even the side that leads the table — Vidarbha — cannot be guaranteed a quarterfinal berth if it fails to avoid a defeat, or even pick up a point via a draw with a first-innings deficit.

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Vidarbha, in the next round, faces Saurashtra, currently positioned second (with 26 points) in the points table.

For Vidarbha, a win, or a draw with a first-innings lead, would be enough for a quarterfinal spot. For Saurashtra, a win is needed for a guaranteed quarterfinal spot.

Madhya Pradesh, which faces a lowly-placed Andhra (11 points), is currently in the fifth spot, with 24 points. If it defeats Andhra, it will go through, too.

The scenario is clearer in Elite Group C. Top two teams from 10 will go through to the quarterfinals, and three teams are in the fray. Team Rajasthan (44 points), which faces Tripura in the next round, is through already.

For Uttar Pradesh (38 points), a draw with a first-innings lead will ensure qualification. It takes on Assam in the next round.

For Jharkhand (33 points), currently, third, the task is more difficult. For it to go through, it has to defeat Jammu & Kashmir — its forthcoming opponent — with a bonus point, and ensure Uttar Pradesh doesn’t manage more than one point. Alternatively, it can go through if it wins its contest, and if Uttar Pradesh loses.

It can also go through if it wins, and Uttar Pradesh gets one point. Then, it will be down to the most number of wins.

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In the Plate Group, three teams are in contention for the only quarterfinal spot available from here. For Uttarakhand (37 points), which takes on an out-of-form Mizoram in the next round, a win would be enough.

However, anything less than a win would be risky. For, if it manages a draw with a first-innings lead and if Bihar (34 points), which takes on Manipur, gets a victory, the final analysis will be down to the most number of wins.

However, if neither Uttarakhand nor Bihar wins, Puducherry can upset the apple-cart and take the quarterfinal spot, if it wins in its contest against Nagaland.

In the business end of the group stage, it’s all to play for, on Monday, in the Ranji Trophy.

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