Mystery pitch greets teams at new venue
Match factsJanuary 6-10, 2012
Start time 0930 (0400 GMT)
On Christmas evening in Hubli, after Haryana had taken three points against Karnataka in the penultimate league round, Stuart Binny spoke about the "slight outside chance" Karnataka had of reaching the quarter-finals but sounded like a man who thought his team's season was over.
Miraculously, though, the complicated set of events necessary for Karnataka to progress came to pass - they won their final match (with a mere eight balls to spare), Odisha lost, and Delhi took the first-innings lead against Vidarbha but couldn't force an outright win.
Saurashtra had it a tad easier, but they too just about squeezed in to the quarter-finals in a group where five teams were separated by only three points. They needed an outright win in their final league match and their star batsman Cheteshwar Pujara duly delivered with a second-innings double-century that set up victory.
Now that both teams have had last-gasp extensions to their campaigns, they will set their targets high. This is the fifth year in a row that Karnataka have reached the quarter-finals but they haven't won a title since the glory days of the late 90s, while Saurashtra are yet to reach the Ranji finals despite successive semi-final appearances in 2007-08 and 08-09, and producing three players who have represented India in Test cricket.
The match won't be played at the shiny new home of Saurashtra cricket, the Khandheri stadium, as the India-England one-dayer is scheduled there for next Friday. While Khandheri prepares for its international debut, the Ranji quarter-final will be played at the much less modern Saurashtra University ground, which will make its first-class debut. How the pitch will fare is anybody's guess.
Sample these quotes about it. Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah: "We don't know how the wicket will react. It's the first time ever we're playing here. We've not played any district-level or any (other match here). I've not played. Don't think Cheteshwar has played here either."
Karnataka captain Stuart Binny: "We don't know how the wicket will behave as we both are going to play first time on this ground and therefore Saurashtra will not have any advantage of playing at home."
Karnataka team manager J Abhiram: "Such an important game, I believe till yesterday there was no wicket at all. So I really don't know if it's an underprepared wicket, I really don't know. They could have played this game in Bangalore, you know, in these kinds of conditions."
Karnataka have two players who missed the previous game back in the squad: their vice-captain Manish Pandey returns after an elbow injury, and left-arm spinner KP Appanna has been picked again, in place of seamer Ronit More.
Karnataka: Stuart Binny (capt), Robin Uthappa, KL Rahul, Kunal Kapoor, Ganesh Satish, Manish Pandey (vice-captain), CM Gautam (wicketkeeper), Amit Verma, K Gowtham, Abhimanyu Mithun, KP Appanna, HS Sharath, SL Akshay, SK Moinuddin, Karun Nair.
Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (capt), Shitanshu Kotak, Sheldon Jackson (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahul Dave, Aarpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makvana, Vishal Joshi, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Jaydev Unadkat, Sagar Jogiyani, Sandip Maniar, Siddarth Trivedi, Saurya Sanandiya.
Stats and trivia
- Karnataka and Saurashtra have met each other six times in the Ranji Trophy - each side has won outright twice, and in the other two games Karnataka have taken first-innings points.
- Karnataka's CM Gautam tops the run-charts with 938, the most ever by a wicketkeeper in a Ranji season
Quotes"We've got the talent, and we've been peaking at the right time. That Maharashtra game really boosted the confidence."
Karnataka team manager J Abhiram
"Everyone know we have a good spinning side, than a fast bowling side. That's a fact. We'll definitely go with a little bit of spin."
Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo