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December 11, 2008
It's the business end of the Ranji Trophy, which resumes after a nine-day break, with quarter-final berths up for grabs. The Super League sends six teams, two qualify from the Plate. Group B has five teams vying for the final three places. Group A looks more settled but Delhi could upset a few calculations if they can pull off two incredible wins. Cricinfo previews the fifth-round clashes:
Saurashtra v Delhi in Rajkot
This is the biggie from the group. Delhi have a fresh lease of life, after beating Orissa inside two days in the previous round. However, they are currently fourth, seven points behind Saurashtra and Gujarat, and 10 behind leaders Mumbai, and need two outright wins.
Though it is mathematically possible for Delhi to make the cut, they must first breach the fortress of Rajkot, where Saurashtra have played all their league matches this season. Only Gujarat have managed to win there so far; even table-toppers Mumbai had to fight for a point.
Saurashtra will be pleased with even one point - which would mean two fewer for Delhi - and guarantee themselves a second successive knock-out appearance in the Ranji Trophy. And with Cheteshwar Pujara in their ranks, it should not be too difficult.
Rajasthan v Gujarat in Jaipur
Two disparate tussles here. Gujarat, currently joint second, will be looking for a win to ensure they are through to the next round. Rajasthan, with just the two points and at the bottom of Group B, will be desperate to avoid relegation.
Rajasthan have five points fewer than Punjab, placed just above them, and will be looking for a miraculous win to close the gap.
At the same time, a win for Gujarat here will take them clear of Delhi and through to the last eight. Even if they manage three points, they will have opened up a big enough gap to seal their entry into next round.
Orissa v Mumbai in Cuttack
Mumbai will fancy their chances of ensuring a quarter-final berth here. The only way they could lose out is if they manage one point or less in their next two matches, and Delhi win both their matches outright. It seems just a formality for Mumbai but they will want to do it in this round. Wilkin Mota will be replacing Ajit Agarkar, who is down with fever.
Orissa, who are seven points ahead of Rajasthan, will only be interested in staying clear of what looks like a highly improbable relegation.
Hyderabad v Punjab in Hyderabad
Hyderabad have 10 points from four matches and need two wins with bonus points, and more luck to get through to quarter-finals. Punjab, with the seven points they have, may not have much to play for and, like Orissa, would look to avoid the drop to the Plate League.
Baroda v Tamil Nadu in Vadodara
Baroda, semi-finalists for the last three seasons, have started late, but an outright win against Maharashtra in the last round has kept them within shouting distance of a place in the last eight. They are placed at No. 5 in the group, but are only six points behind group leaders Tamil Nadu. One win could upset all the calculations.
Tamil Nadu, though, will want some breathing space, and will look for at least three points from the match. To even matters up, Baroda will be playing at home, and will have the services of the Pathan brothers, though they will be relieved not to see M Vijay and S Badrinath in the Tamil Nadu side.
Maharashtra v Railways in Nasik
This is Railways' chance of scoring full points, and keep their hopes alive of a place in the quarter-finals. They have 10 points from four games, six less than Tamil Nadu, and are not really out of the contest. But they will know this match is crucial.
By losing outright twice, Maharashtra have already let Uttar Pradesh and Baroda back into the contest. For Maharashtra, playing at home, this is an opportunity to widen the one-point gap between them and bottom-placed Andhra, who will not be playing in this round.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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