<
>

The contrasting journeys of Vidarbha and Karnataka

Abhimanyu Mithun's five-wicket haul dismantled Vidarbha PTI

Among the four Ranji Trophy 2018-19 semi-finalists, Karnataka and Vidarbha are the only ones to have won the competition previously. Saurashtra have been to the final twice, while this is Kerala's first appearance in the last-four stage.

ESPNcricinfo looks at how the two teams who have been there and done that stack up.

Batting torch-bearers

Vidarbha

Wasim Jaffer is 31 runs away from becoming the only man in history to make 1000 runs in a Ranji season twice. While not every successful season need result in a 1000 runs, scoring that many leaves no room for doubt about the success of a season. And it generally means you have been the batting mainstay of your team.

That Jaffer, less than a month away from turning 41, is still one of the leading batting lights of not just his team, but the entire tournament, speaks of how good he continues to be, and is not a comment on batting talent in India. Jaffer's runs have been the primary driving force in Vidarbha topping the table in Groups A and B, and thus getting to play the quarter-final against Uttarakhand, the Plate Group winner.

Jaffer apart, Vidarbha have also been well served by another old hand in Faiz Fazal, who has 651 runs. Fazal has scored three centuries, all helping the team at key moments.

Karnataka

In contrast to Vidarbha, Karnataka's batting was driven by young guns KV Siddharth and Dega Nischal, who are their two highest run-getters.

Quite incredibly, till their quarter-final against Rajasthan, the man with the highest batting average for Karnataka was Vinay Kumar. Two of Vinay's three half-centuries have been crucial for Karnataka, including the one in the quarter-final. But when it came to the crunch, the duo of Karun Nair and Manish Pandey stepped up with unbeaten half-centuries to helm a tricky chase.

For the semi-final, Karnataka will have Mayank Agarwal back, giving their line-up a formidable look. Karnataka's league stage has been carried by rookies, but they might need their pros to pull them through the business end.

'Keeping it consistent - or not

Vidarbha

Akshay Wadkar made his debut for Vidarbha last season, and since then, he's scored at an average of 64.77 in 17 matches, which is outstanding for a batsman and even better for a wicketkeeper. Wadkar had been a consistent presence in Vidarbha's side in the last two seasons, giving them added stability and balance. This season, Wadkar has overtaken even Fazal in scoring 680 runs.

Karnataka

Karnataka haven't quite been able to plug the CM Gautam, void. Gautam has been out of form, and Karnataka have banked on two youngsters - BR Sharath and Sharath Srinivas, who have featured in six and three matches respectively.

Sharath began with a century on debut, but has little else to show, the general perception being that he's been rushed in based on his T20 exploits. Srinivas, meanwhile, is a better stumper, but his batting hasn't quite been up to the mark.

The bowling stars

Vidarbha

Vidarbha's campaign has been driven by their spinners. Left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate has 44 wickets, while offspinner Akshay Wakhare has 27. They are the two leading wicket-takers for Vidarbha.

The catch is that Rajneesh Gurbani, last season's talisman, hasn't been at his best. He has missed a few matches through injury, and some for being on India A duty. But in the four games he's played, he has taken only three wickets.But Vidarbha have got Umesh Yadav back. Umesh became available only from the quarter-final onwards, but in his first match for the side this Ranji season, he was the man of the match with nine wickets. A fit, firing and in-form Umesh is a threat to international opposition, and most certainly so for domestic line-ups.

Karnataka
Karnataka's inspirational seam-bowling spearhead Vinay has been far from at his best, having picked up just 11 wickets in six games. That they've still managed to break open several doors is because of their pace depth. The selectors have persisted with Vinay when they could have easily been tempted to go to the relatively less-experienced Prasidh Krishna, and he has repaid the faith by playing the role of an on-field bowling mentor to Abhimanyu Mithun and Ronit More, who have picked up 52 wickets between them. On drier surfaces, they've been well-served by spinners Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith, with K Gowtham playing the role of an allrounder in the absence of Stuart Binny. So it's a combination of pace and spin that has yet done the trick for them.

The season

Vidarbha

Vidarbha's season has been marked mostly by consistency. They haven't had a single outright loss, and even in their drawn matches, they have taken the first-innings lead more often than not. The first occasion when they failed to do so was against Karnataka. Some rearguard resistance meant Karnataka made 378 to Vidarbha's 307, but faced with a target of 158, Karnataka sank to 76 for 6 before the match was drawn. The only other match Vidarbha fell behind in was their final league match, against Saurashtra, when their qualification to the knockouts was already sealed.

Karnataka

Karnataka's decision to not enforce the follow-on despite bowling out Mumbai in less than a day, with a 195-run lead, led to questions over their defensive tactics. The three points lost due to a potential outright result may have cost them a top spot in the group stage.

Karnataka have been found wanting on turners, the reversals against Saurashtra, where no batsman made a half-century, and Baroda being prime examples. It's safe to assume Karnataka enjoy playing on green tracks more.