Ranji Trophy Super League quarter-finals December 25, 2008

Mumbai favourites, Gujarat-UP well poised

Cricinfo staff


Ajinkya Rahane and Wasim Jaffer have been the top run-getters in the Super League © Cricinfo Ltd
 

Mumbai v Himachal Pradesh in Ahmedabad

In the build-up to this quarter-final, there was confusion abound in Mumbai about whether Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan would be available for this match. A more important question is, whether Mumbai will need them for Himachal Pradesh? Mumbai have by a long margin been the best team in the Super League, and should go in as overwhelming favourites in this match. As it turns out, Tendulkar and Zaheer won't be playing the game, and should be available from the semi-final onwards.

Mumbai are the only team to have won five outright games in the Super League, and go into the knockouts high on confidence. They have won three consecutive matches - their nine-wicket win against Punjab being the most recent - and their batsmen featured prominently in each of those victories. The key players were Ajinkya Rahane, the highest run-scorer in the competition with 924 at an average of 84, and Wasim Jaffer, the second-highest run-scorer. Fast bowler Dhawal Kulkarni, who has 32 wickets including two five-wicket hauls in his last three innings, and offspinner Ramesh Powar backed up their team's batting by bowling out the oppositions for low scores.

Himachal will be relying heavily on new-ball bowlers Vikramjeet Malik, who has taken 33 wickets - including 13 in their 103-run win against Haryana, and Ashok Thakur, whose tally is 29. Sangram Singh, their opener, has averaged 63.2 in seven games, including back-to-back double-centuries against Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand. However, unlike Mumbai, Himachal have lost one game to Goa but their comprehensive innings victory against Madhya Pradesh in the semi-final will give them ample encouragement as they take on the tournament favourites.

Gujarat v Uttar Pradesh in Vadodara
Featuring two Super League teams, this promises to be the closest of the quarter-finals. On form, Gujarat, who finished second in Group A of the Super League with four wins, will fancy their chances against Uttar Pradesh, who have won only one game but qualified for the quarter-finals by way of a first-innings lead in four drawn matches. But Gujarat will know that UP are an unpredictable side, and have big-match players in Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Suresh Raina.

Barring one disappointment against Mumbai when they were bowled out for 44, Gujarat performed admirably in the tournament. Bhavik Thaker has been responsible for their impressive display, averaging 94.6 in ten innings with three centuries. The bowling, however, has been their main strength: offspinner Mohnish Parmar, whose 33 wickets are the most in the Super League, has been supported by pace bowlers Siddharth Trivedi, Amit Singh, and Ashraf Makda, who have taken 67 wickets between them. They helped Gujarat fight back from the humiliation against Mumbai and two subsequent draws to help bowl out sides for under 200 in their last three games.

UP have only just managed to reach the knockout stage, after solitary win, against Maharashtra in Kanpur, and a demoralising innings defeat to Tamil Nadu. Kaif and Praveen didn't play that match, and the difference they make to the side showed. Kaif, who has averaged 62.66 in seven innings, has found a solid partner in opener Tanmay Srivastava, their highest run-scorer this season. Piyush Chawla has been their best bowler with 23 wickets at 29.47, but they wouldn't want repeats of the match against Railways in Delhi, where they couldn't finish the match after having got into a strong position.