Riding high on their five consecutive victories, Karnataka will be looking to continue their winning streak when they take on Uttar Pradesh in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday.
Karnataka have been on a roll as never before, as they scripted five outright victories in a row this season in the league stage. The most unforgettable one was against traditional rivals Mumbai, whom they beat by 160-run margin.
The host captain Vinay Kumar would undoubtedly be hoping to take full advantage of playing in home conditions and give a hard time to the visitors, who have senior pros in their ranks like India discards — Mohammad Kaif, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar and RP Singh.
Vinay might be disappointed with the absence of in-form all-rounder Stuart Binny due to his inclusion in India’s ODI squad for New Zealand tour, but must be relieved to have Robin Uthappa back in the side, having recovered from hamstring injury.
The swashbuckling Uthappa will replace Mayank Agarwal, who has been in good form. The Karnataka opener will be missing the quarterfinals as he is being named in Karnataka’s U-25 squad for the CK Nayudu Trophy quarterfinal against Himachal Pradesh in Dharamsala from January 5.
Left-arm spinner KP Appanna will return to the squad after he was rested in the previous match against Delhi, which Karnataka won by eight wickets to finish the league stage with five consecutive victories.
Karnataka have a formidable batting line-up.
Almost all the top order batsmen have put their hands up when others had failed to make any impression. Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ganesh Satish and CM Gautam, all of them have been among runs. Especially, Rahul has been the real force behind the home side’s batting with 777 runs under his belt after cracking two centuries and three half centuries.
Karun Nair, who blasted a ton on debut, 105 against Delhi in the last match, could give match-less Uthappa a much needed confidence at the other end. Form of Pandey, Satish and Gautam, in the middle order will not be a cause of concern for Vinay ahead of the match.
Among the bowlers, pacers Vinay, Abhimanyu Mithun and HS Sharath have been among wickets so far and would like to continue the good work.
Right-arm medium pacer Ronit More would also come into the match with his tails up with seven-wicket and four-wicket hauls against Haryana and Delhi, respectively. Appanna also have been among wickets.
UP also face the same liabilities as hosts as they will miss the services of their captain Suresh Raina and leggie Amit Mishra, for they are the part of India’s ODI squad for NZ tour.
UP, who were placed second in Group B with two outright victories in the league stage, will hope to play with a positive frame of mind, especially having under performed in the tournament so far.
The visitors started the season by beating Baroda and then thumping Services by an innings and 14 runs.
Prashant Gupta, wicketkeeper-batsman Ekalavya Dwivedi and Parvinder Singh, have been among runs, but in bits and pieces.
This may, however, propel them to give more to make UP proud by collectively putting up a good score.
A tall left-handed UP opening batsman Tanmay Srivastava, who had turned quite a few heads with his competent batting in U-19 cricket, would hope to continue the form, which he showed against Railways by cracking 103.
R P Singh and Imtiyaz Ahmed will lead the pace attack, while Piyush Chawla, Pravin Gupta and Ali Murtaza are the three spinners.