Baroda, UP on level footing in final
Monday, April 14, 2014
Start time 09:30 local, 04:00 GMT
Uttar Pradesh and Baroda will both feel they have earned their place in Monday's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final on merit, especially when you factor in how difficult it is to reach the tournament's showpiece match in the first place. To begin with, each team must finish in the top two of their respective zones just to qualify for the Super League, from where only the winners of the two groups move to the final.
In that regard, both finalists can reflect on a job well done. There is very little to separate between the two teams whose journeys to the final have been similar. Both made short work of their opposition in the zonal matches, suffered a blip each in the Super League - UP to Gujarat and Baroda to Kerala - and just about scraped through to the final by virtue of superior net run-rates.
Baroda's pace attack has been the cornerstone of the team's success this season, and will once again be tasked to provide early breakthroughs on Monday. Lukman Meriwala leads the wicket-taking charts with 18 dismissals this season, and he has been well-supported by Munaf Patel and Hardik Pandya, who have accounted for 19 wickets between them.
UP will be banking on their opener Mukul Dagar to carry his fine form into the final as they haven't had a standout performer with the ball, although Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar have all stepped up at different times. Their other batsmen have generally failed to convert their starts, but Prashant Gupta's unbeaten 102 against Haryana on Saturday was what helped UP book a final berth.
Baroda LWWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
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Seven matches, four fifties, and 277 runs at a strike-rate of 139.89. Mukul Dagar, UP's leading run-scorer, has been in sublime touch throughout the tournament and has already produced match-winning knocks against Goa, Jharkhand and Vidarbha. Baroda's prospects of securing the title may ultimately come down to removing the opener cheaply.
Any other year, Munaf Patel would have not been available for the final due to his IPL commitments. However, his exclusion from the tournament this season means Baroda can count on his valuable experience. Munaf was excellent in his first spell on Saturday, picking up two wickets and conceding just seven from three overs. However, his final over went for 19 runs, costing Baroda the match. He will want to avoid a repeat of that against UP.
With the IPL looming over the horizon, both teams will be without some of their more seasoned performers like Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra, Ifran and Yusuf Pathan.
Baroda (probable) 1. Kedar Devdhar 2. Aditya Waghmode (capt) 3. Abhimanyu Chauhan 4.Hardik Pandya 5.Deepak Hooda 6.Abhijit Karambelkar 7.Krunal Pandya 8. Pinal Shah (wk) 9. Rishi Arothe 10. Lukman Meriwala 11. Munaf Patel
Uttar Pradesh (probable) 1. Mukul Dagar 2. Prashant Gupta 3. Eklavya Dwivedi 4. Upendra Yadav 5. Akshdeep Nath (capt) 6. Rinku Singh 7. Ali Murtaza 8. Umang Sharma 9. Imtiaz Ahmed 10. Praveen Kumar 11. Praveen Gupta
Stats and Trivia
"We are fortunate to be playing the final (ahead of Goa on net run-rate). Having said that, UP is a young team but played outstanding cricket in the Super League and earlier topped the Central Zone."
Venkatesh Prasad, the UP coach, is confident that his team will get the job done in the final
Anuj Vignesh is a sub-editor in ESPNcricinfo