Ranji Trophy SF Preview: Four sides all aim to end many years of hurt

After 108 games which have seen 27 sides whittled down to four, India’s premier first-class competition is now down its final furlongs with the semi-finals taking place later this week.cricketballs (1)This season’s edition has been one typified by an unpredictable nature.

For a start Mumbai who won three of the last five titles departed at the quarter final stage to Maharashtra. Further to that Rajasthan who lifted the trophy in both 2012 and 2011 crashed out in the initial group stage and of last season’s last four only Punjab have made it again this around.

All of the sides remaining will deem this a golden to chance to end a prolonged wait for Ranji Trophy success although that wait has been significantly longer for some.

Of the last four Karnataka were the last to taste four day glory lifting the trophy back in 1999. Maharashtra are currently experiencing the longest baron run of the quartet, which dates back an incredible 73 years – having downed Mumbai in the last round they will believe this is their time.

At the centre of Maharashstra’s success has been Kedhar Yadhav who has amassed a frightening 1034 runs in only 9 games, at an average of 94. It’s a run-spree that includes five centuries. Perhaps the most stunning of those knocks being an unbeaten 120 against Mumbai which made light of the challenging 252 his side had been set. So impressive has Yadhav been that teammate Harshad Khadiwale’s impressive return of 944 runs at 67 has almost been put in the shade.

Attempting to stop Khadiwale and Yadhav will be a Bengal side who only reached the last eight courtesy of being one of the two third placed sides, in the process winning just two games prior to their quarter-final victory over a Railways side who topped group B.

Cricket-General-GettyBengal who are seeking a first final appearance since 2007, can at least call on the leading wicket taker of the remaining sides in Ashok Dinda. They will need him at his best to counter the tournaments leading two run scorers in Khadiwale and Yadhav.

The second semi see’s Harbajan Singh’s Punjab face off against an imperious Karnataka who won more games than any other side in the Group stage. If that wasn’t impressive enough they are also able to currently boast a run of six successive victories.

Punjab are undoubtedly the underdogs in this one, their best cricket has come largely in fits and starts, whilst they are the only remaining side to have tasked defeated thus far. They have also already witnessed first-hand just how dangerous Karnataka can be, falling to a thumping ten wicket defeat earlier on in the campaign.

Karnataka’s side is packed with talent throughout, in particular a pace attack that has played a huge part in their success to date. As a result Punjab might be looking for a surface to negate that threat – although it was 20-year-old legbreak bowler Shreyas Gopal who proved the match winner against Uttar Pradesh despite that being only his third first class match.

Harbajan’s men face a stiff test, however if this season has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected.

Punjab have been the most inconsistent of the sides making up the semi-final line up but they still have the match winners to deny Karnataka a first final since 2010.

Whatever happens it promises to be a fascinating final few weeks of the Ranji Trophy.

All four sides have genuine reasons to believe that after a varying years of hurt that it is their turn to taste success and given the unpredictable nature of this the tournament thus far, it is difficult to call just who will be crowned 2013-14 champions.

by Matt Carter

 

Matt is a budding young cricket writer, who is obsessed with all aspects of the game from the domestic to the international. His biggest passion though is reserved for the trials and tribulation of Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

He can be contacted on Twitter @Matt432 and also blogs HERE

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