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November 6, 2013
Where they finished last time
But they fell in the first knockout, to a spirited Services side. Much of their success came courtesy Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took 27 wickets in six games at an average of 20. This year it is likely they will have to cope without him for long periods, when he is away on India duty.
Openers Tanmay Srivastava and Mukul Dagar had prolific seasons but the middle order couldn't always build on their platforms. Parvinder Singh righted some of that imbalance when he started scoring in the second half of the season. His recent hundred in the draw against the touring West Indians will give him and the team confidence, along with the wickets taken by RP Singh and Piyush Chawla.
RP Singh missed the previous Ranji season with injury but looks "extremely fit" this year, coach Venkatesh Prasad said. Praveen Kumar, though, is out for a couple of months with a shoulder injury. While the pace attack has other promising options such as Imtiaz Ahmed and Ankit Rajpoot, UP's spin hopes will rest with Chawla and left-arm spinner Ali Murtaza, who didn't enjoy much success last season.
Players to watch
In the absence of Bhuvneshwar and Praveen Kumar, and RP Singh having played only one first-class match in nearly two years, there will be plenty of expectations on UP's relatively unheralded pair of quicks, Imtiaz Ahmed and Ankit Rajpoot. While Imtiaz was their most impressive bowler through the season, Rajpoot made headlines in only seven outings with 31 wickets at an average of 18.80.
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