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Rain threat looms large over Ranji Trophy quarterfinals as knockout stage begins

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Bengaluru, June 5 (Ajit Weekly News) After a two-month break, in which IPL 2022 happened, the Ranji Trophy 2021/22 season knockouts stage begins with the quarterfinals to be played in four venues across Bengaluru from June 6.

After the league phase was conducted in February-March this year, where each team played a maximum of three matches as opposed to eight or nine in a pre-pandemic era tournament, eight teams – Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand – will contest against each other for the Ranji Trophy.

But with heavy rainfall and yellow alert issued for Bengaluru over the next four days, it doesn’t augur well for teams who wish to move to the next stages of the tournament.

We take a look at how the first two quarterfinals shape up: –

Quarterfinal 1 – Bengal vs Jharkhand

The only team to win all three games in Elite Group B to qualify for the knockouts, Bengal will start favourites against Jharkhand, who entered the knockouts after getting the better of Nagaland in pre-quarterfinal match. But Bengal, who arrived early in Bangalore and began their practice sessions, could be without Mohammed Shami, who may be given rest as he is in squad for one-off Test against England in July.

With Wriddhiman Saha departing due to his differences with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), expect young Abhishek Porel, a member of U19 World Cup winning squad, to be given chance in the knockouts. Bengal’s biggest strength lies in their bowling unit of pacers Akash Deep, Ishan Porel and Mukesh Kumar, who picked 48 wickets in league stage. They will need batters, including captain Abhimanyu Easwaran and Manoj Tiwary, to do bulk of scoring with the bat.

On the other hand, Jharkhand are making their first knockouts appearance since 2016/17. Their journey to quarterfinals has been a roller-coaster ride: – a narrow 15-run win over Delhi was followed by an eight-wicket defeat to Chhattisgarh and when it mattered the most against Tamil Nadu, they fought hard to win by two wickets to get into pre-quarterfinals.

In the pre-quarterfinals, they batted for 2.5 days to post a mammoth 880 and then batted again to take a lead of 1008 runs, the biggest lead ever in history of first-class cricket. In Saurabh Tiwary, Virat Singh, Kumar Kushagra, Kumar Suraj, Sushant Mishra, Shahbaz Nadeem and Anukul Roy, Jharkhand have players who could challenge Bengal.

Quarterfinal 2 – Mumbai vs Uttarakhand

Mumbai will be without Shivam Dube and Ajinkya Rahane due to injuries. But one would still expect the 41-time champions to get the better of Uttarakhand. The Prithvi Shaw-led side showed some glimpses of the typical never-say-die Mumbai attitude, like when Tanush Kotian batted with lower-order batters to get a career-best 98 and set up a 232-run target for Goa, with Shams Mulani taking an 11-wicket match haul.

With the bat, Sarfaraz Khan has been their run machine, slamming 551 runs in four innings at an average of 137.75. He is currently the third-highest run-getter in this tournament and with his younger brother Musheer Khan, who had a phenomenal time in Cooch Behar Trophy, with 670 runs in nine games, including two centuries and five fifties, also included in the squad. Mulani, the left-arm spinner, is the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 29 wickets.

For Uttarakhand, who are in knockouts for the second time in three seasons, the entry to knockouts came after going past Andhra Pradesh, Services and Rajasthan. Their skipper Jay Bista, an ex-Mumbai player, has been solid with the bat and would be eager to prove a point against his previous team. With the ball, Uttarakhand can be dependent on left-arm spinner Mayank Mishra, who picked 16 wickets and on all-rounder Dikshanshu Negi.

–Ajit Weekly News

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