Ranji Trophy: After Four Rounds, Race to Knockouts Enters Business End


The fourth round of Ranji Trophy culminated on January 29 and with just three games to go, every side would look to put their best foot forward as India’s premier domestic tournament approaches the business end – the knockouts. A lot of drama, twists and turns were in store on Monday as Delhi fashioned an improbable win over Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh survived some nervy moments to pocket six points vs Mumbai and Services picked four Saurashtra wickets for just six runs to take first innings lead and three points.

Also Read: A Playing XI Headache for India Ahead of 2nd Test

Vidarbha, Mumbai, Karnataka (joint lead with Tamil Nadu on points) and Baroda are leading their respective Elite Groups after four rounds and Hyderabad are thoroughly dominating the Plate Group with four bonus points win. The first four rounds saw plenty of weather-related delays especially in the Northern part of the country as light and visibility wasn’t ideal for any action. The fixtures at Lahli, Delhi, Jammu and Mohali were worst hit. The condition was so bad that during a Delhi vs Jammu & Kashmir contest in Jammu, only three overs were possible in the first three days.

The Pro check!

Apart from the weather, the professional players were talk of the town as plenty of them have made a lot of impact with match-winning performances for their new team. Leading the show has been Madhya Pradesh seamer Gourav Yadav who moved to Pondicherry this season. The skilled quick, who moves the ball both ways at brisk pace, got his red-ball season underway with a ten-wicket match haul vs Delhi and has added 21 wickets from his next three games to take his tally to 31 at a brilliant average of 11.23.

Another domestic veteran making crucial contributions for his new team is Aditya Tare. The experienced wicketkeeper-batter from Mumbai was retained by Uttarakhand as their pro player and he has repaid the faith 438 runs from four games. The side is struggling at seventh in their group but it could have been a much worse campaign had the experienced right-hander not scored those crucial runs in the middle-order.

Not that big an impact yet but both Nitish Rana and Dhruv Shorey, who moved to UP and Vidarbha respectively from Delhi this season, hit hundreds for their team in the fourth round fixtures. Rana has been leading UP this season and the side is currently fourth in Group B with 11 points from four games.

Before the 113 vs Jharkhand in the second innings, Shorey had a torrid time with the bat and could manage scores of just 2, 3, 10, 15, 9 and 9. The classy right-hander, who averages over 50 in FC, would look to make substantial contributions and help Vidarbha seal knockouts berth.

Himmat Singh scored a splendid 194 in Delhi’s seven-run win. (PTO Photo)

Northern heavyweights struggle

It’s been a disappointing campaign for Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab as the three heavyweight sides have just 7, 3 and 8 points respectively after the four rounds. While Delhi and Punjab have managed to win one game each, HP have lost their last three fixtures and managed to take first-innings lead over Jammu and Kashmir in the season opener.

Both Punjab and Delhi need a special effort in their last three fixtures to press for qualification. The two teams have looked very off-colour so far and would hope the latest wins inject a fresh lease of life into their campaign. Punjab take on Chandigarh next while Delhi will host Baroda at Palam.

The Himmat Singh-led unit, which has played on very spicy tracks in their four fixtures so far, would look to get some confidence in batting-friendly conditions at Palam. There are some injury concerns in the camp too as Divij Mehra injured himself in the game vs MP and Navdeep Saini didn’t come out to bat and didn’t bowl vs Uttarakhand. It remains to be seen whether Saini recovers in time for the game vs Baroda starting on February 2.

Tamil Nadu’s emphatic wins and some business as usual

It’s been a turnaround of sorts for Tamil Nadu as they registered back-to-back bonus points wins to storm to second spot in Group C. Riding high on N Jagadeesan’s run (600 runs from 4 innings) at top of the order, Sai Kishore’s all-round show, Baba Indrajith’s solid middle-order act and a combined bowling effort, TN are looking a formidable unit and are tied with table-toppers Karnataka on 15 points.

As far as Karnataka are concerned, it’s that man Mayank Agarwal again. With 2 hundreds and a fifty, Agarwal’s consistent run at top of the order continues and this time he is getting able support from Devdutt Padikkal, who has been phenomenal this season. The classy left-hander has already hit two hundreds and is scoring runs (369 from 4 innings) at a very healthy strike-rate of 82.18.

Cheteshwar Pujara continues to score heavily in Ranji Trophy. (PTI Photo)

Elsewhere, Cheteshwar Pujara continues to do Cheteshwar Pujara things with his 535-run tally from 6 innings. Chandrakant Pandit touch continues to do the magic for Madhya Pradesh as the Shubham Sharma-led unit are second in Group D with 16 points.

The fifth round gets underway on February 2 and there are some mouth-watering contests lined up. For teams, it will be business as usual and all efforts would be directed at pocketing six, if not the maximum seven points on offer.



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