Mumbai v Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy Super League, Mumbai December 24, 2007

Mumbai face must-win encounter

Mumbai need to overcome Saurashtra to progress to the semi-finals © Getty Images
The already claustrophobic space at the top of Group A of the Ranji Trophy Super league is set to get even tighter when Mumbai face Saurashtra at the Wankhede Stadium in their last league match. While it's almost a quarter-final for Mumbai, Saurashtra can afford a draw to enter the semi-finals. Saurashtra are leading the table with 20 points while Mumbai are tied in the second place with Delhi at 18 points.

The rules are simple. If there is a three-way tie between the teams - that can happen if Mumbai and Delhi get the first-innings lead - it will come down to the most number of wins. Saurashtra have three while its rivals have two each. Between Mumbai and Delhi, the team with the better run quotient will go forward and Delhi leads the equation with 1.479 compared to Mumbai's 1.145. However, if Saurashtra lose and Delhi get at least three points for gaining the first-innings lead against Tamil Nadu, both Delhi and Mumbai will go through to the next stage.

Amol Muzumdar, Mumbai's captain, doesn't want to get into number crunching. "We want to win here and enter the semi-finals." He has an additional reason to do well. Tomorrow will be Muzumdar's 100th Ranji Trophy match and he is only the twelfth player to reach the milestone.

While Mumbai have a great track record of getting out of jail, they have been handicapped here with injuries to bowlers. The seam attack is led by inexperienced Murtuza Hussain and they will look up to their spin duo of Ramesh Powar and Nilesh Kulkarni - drafted into this side for this match - to do the job.

The nature of the track has thrown up the regular cliché that it's a sporting track and will help both batsmen and bowlers. Pravin Amre, Mumbai's coach, reckons it will take spin later. "It looks a true Wankhede wicket. We have not interfered in its preparation and are just looking to get on with the game. The batsman are coming into form, Nilesh is back, Murtuza is bowling well and I am confident that we can do it."

Both Amre and Muzumdar have said the pressure is on the inexperienced Saurashtra team to continue with their dream run. "What pressure? I have told the boys to just go and enjoy out there," Debhu Mitra, the coach, said. "Not many expected us to reach here and I just want the boys to continue with the basics."

Pressure will be the critical factor during the match as some teams choke at the sight of the victory. Can Saurashtra keep their nerve in this last lap?

Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo