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January 3, 2009
Ahead of the Ranji Trophy semi-finals, Cricinfo looks at the numbers that have made a difference for the teams so far this season.
Mumbai v Saurashtra
Mumbai have been by far the dominant team in the competition, winning six out of eight matches. However, their opponents Saurashtra were the only side that came close to beating them in the league stages. Saurashra were also responsible for Mumbai's exit from last year's Ranji Trophy by way of a first-innings lead.
The focus will be on Sachin Tendulkar - who returns for this match - but it is Ajinkya Rahane and Wasim Jaffer who have ensured Mumbai's domination in his absence. They are the highest run-getters in the tournament, and partner each other well - with four century and two half-century stands, the duo average 149.57 when batting together.
However, what their performance overshadows is their weak opening combination, with the six pairs used thus far averaging 28.79 in 14 innings. Sahil Kukreja has been successful, averaging 51.25 in five games, but Vinayak Mane and Vinayak Samant, the wicketkeeper, have struggled to impress. Amol Muzumdar's form has also been a matter of concern for Mumbai, while Rohit Sharma has done well in the middle order, averaging 62.
Not content with securing a first-innings lead - on an average, they gain a 189-run advantage - Mumbai's bowlers have managed to convert strong positions into victories. Medium-pacer Dhawal Kulkarni and offspinner Ramesh Powar have been their main performers, taking 61 wickets between them at an average of 21.08. They have proven more effective in the first innings, taking 35 wickets, including four out of their five five-wicket hauls, and have been ably supported in the second by Ajit Agarkar and Usman Malvi. Ten out of Agarkar's 13 wickets have come in the second innings, including a five-wicket haul against Himachal Pradesh, while Malvi has taken eight out of his 15 in the second. Legspinner Sairaj Bahutule has been the major bowling worry for Mumbai, with his nine wickets costing 48 apiece.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Shitanshu Kotak have done most of the scoring for Saurashta. Pujara is the third-highest run-getter in the competition, with 867 runs at 86.70, including three consecutive centuries - one of them a triple - and a match-winning effort against Karnataka in the quarter-final. Pujara put on 420 with Ravindra Jadeja - fifth on the run-scoring charts - in Saurashtra's innings win against Orissa, and averages 148 in five innings with him. Kotak and Pujara have been more prolific: the two have added 724 in seven innings at 103.42, including three century stands.
However, their batting, despite a superb Pujara-inspired run-chase against Karnataka, has experienced a blip. After three consecutive scores of 600, and an average first-innings lead of 315 in those games, Saurashtra have been bowled out for under 300 in five out of their next seven innings. The trio of Pujara, Kotak, and Jadeja had managed only a century and a fifty between them in six innings before each of them played a significant part in helping their team chase down 325 against Karnataka.
Saurashtra's bowling has improved during the course of the season. Ravindra Jadeja, the tournament's best allrounder, has taken 25 of his 39 wickets in Saurashtra's last four games, and has been supported well by Sandeep Jobanputra, Jayesh Odedra, Kamlesh Makvana and Balkrishna Jadeja. Saurashtra have conceded 21.57 runs per wicket in their last four games, as opposed to 37.17 in the first four.
Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh
Tamil Nadu's most clinical performance in the league phase came against Uttar Pradesh - they trounced them by an innings. Their superior record and ability to emerge winners from difficult positions gives them the edge, but UP have also managed their way through tough situations.
Tamil Nadu have gained the first-innings lead -an average of 195 - in five out of seven games, and on the two occasions they fell short - against Baroda and Bengal - they came back strongly in the second innings to emerge victors.
Opener Abhinav Mukund has been their highest run-getter this tournament, with 756 runs at 84, including a triple-century in his team's first game against Maharashtra. Mukund added 462 with M Vijay for the first wicket in that game, but has not found similar support in their next six - the average for the opening wicket has slipped to 36.22. The middle order, however, has stepped up, with S Badrinath, S Vidyut and Dinesh Karthik averaging 61.41 between them. An important aspect of TN's batting has been their scoring rate. In ten innings, they have scored at an average of 3.6 runs-an-over, allowing the rate to fall under three only once.
L Balaji has been their spearhead with 31 wickets at 16.64. Twenty-four of those have come in Tamil Nadu's three wins; he has taken five-wicket hauls in the second innings of those games. His 6 for 24 against Bengal swung the match in Tamil Nadu's favour , and his five-for against Baroda helped his team win after they were bowled out for 117 in their first innings. Tamil Nadu's seamers, Balaji, C Ganapathy and P Amarnath, have taken 55.37% of the wickets - 67 out of 121 - with 46 of those coming in matches won by their team.
Tanmay Srivastava and Mohammad Kaif have starred with the bat for UP - they are team's highest run-scorers - and have batted extremely well together, averaging 143.6 per partnership. Two performances stand out: they added 122 for the fourth wicket against Baroda after UP were in a precarious position at 9 for 3 and laid the foundation for a first-innings lead, and put on 247 for the third in a crucial game against Karnataka while pursuing 567 for a first-innings lead, helping their team go through to the quarter-finals.
Uttar Pradesh have the least wins among the semi-finalists. However, their bowlers have provided them the advantage, bowling out sides for gettable scores after fielding first, or being able to restrict the opposition to lower scores when the batsmen have failed to put on a sizeable total.
In the four matches UP has fielded first, they have managed to gain a lead, after conceding 329 runs on an average. When batting first, they average 267, and have succeeded in gaining the lead on two out of three occasions.
Fast bowlers have been more effective in helping them gain the early advantage, taking 23 of the 40 wickets to fall when fielding first, and 19 of the 30 when defending a first-innings score. Bhuvneshwar Kumar tops the bowling list for UP with 23 wickets at 22.21 - legspinner Piyush Chawla has as many wickets, but at a higher average of 30.95. Bhuvneshwar has been supported well by new-ball partner Praveen Kumar - three of their four five-wicket hauls have come in the first innings.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Talya
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