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March 17, 2005
Yuvraj Singh, who was the 12th man in the ongoing second Test between India and Pakistan, will now turn out for Punjab in their Ranji Trophy semi-final at Mumbai, starting on March 18. Mohammad Kaif will fly to Kolkata to replace Yuvraj and would take the field if necessary.
This is the first time Punjab have entered the semi-finals since 2001 and face a stern test against the defending champions Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai have not lost a single game at home since 2001, when, fittingly, they lost to Punjab in the quarter-finals. Mumbai, though, have been unstoppable in the last three years and barring a minor blip against Madhya Pradesh earlier this season, where they conceded the first-innings lead, they have cruised through without any trouble.
Yuvraj, though, has consistently shown the ability to lift sides that he turns out for - both Punjab and North Zone - and his presence would surely be a boost for a much-improved Punjab. Gagandeep Singh, Amit Uniyal and VRV Singh comprise a potent pace attack and Mumbai's batting brigade might just be put to test for the first time this season.
Hyderabad take on Railways in the other semi-final in Delhi. Hyderabad will be without the talismanic presence of VVS Laxman, who boosted them to the knock-out stage, but Ambati Rayudu and Daniel Manohar, two talented youngsters, may just pick up the baton. Railways, though, start as favourites with a number of their players leading Central Zone to the Duleep Trophy triumph earlier this month. Their fortunes will hinge on Jai Prakash Yadav and Sanjay Bangar, both capable of tilting the scales with both bat and ball.
The semi-finals of the Plate Group also gets underway on the same day. Haryana play Jharkhand in Chandigarh while Himachal Pradesh host Services at Dharamsala. The finalists will be promoted to the Elite Group next season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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