February 16-20, 2015
Start time: 09.30 IST
Andhra enter the game having achieved their primary objective of the season: having finished second in Group C, for the first time in seven years, Andhra will feature in the top rung of the tournament next season.
In the recent years, Rajasthan, Services and Maharashtra (just last year in Maharashtra's case) have proven that teams from the lowest rung can not only compete with but also beat the qualifiers from the top two groups. And Andhra will be hoping to join that club by surprising their more-fancied opponents. Mohammad Kaif's move to the team has not only helped them gel, but also brought out the best in young bunch.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, are desperate to prove a point that last year's dream run to the final wasn't a fluke. They have justified their promotion from Group C by making it to the knockouts. Now, they will be hoping to avoid the ignominy of losing to a "Plate team" - as Group C teams are referred to on the domestic cricket circuit.
The outcome of the match will largely depend on the battle between in-form pace attacks on a Lahli track that has proven to be a seamer's paradise. While the Andhra triumvirate of D Siva Kumar, DP Vijaykumar and CV Stephen have shared 84 wickets in the league stage, Maharashtra's quartet - Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha, Domnic Joseph and Shrikant Mundhe - have combined to pick 95 wickets so far.
In the spotlight
KS Bharat stole the limelight by becoming the first wicketkeeper to notch a triple-hundred in the Ranji Trophy in his last innings. If Andhra is to make their maiden semi-final, the opening batsman will have to fire yet again.
With more than 400 runs and 25 wickets this season, Shrikant Mundhe has emerged as one of the leading allrounders on the circuit. Maharashtra will be banking on their Mr Reliable to rise to the occasion in the knockouts.
Andhra: Mohammad Kaif (capt), DB Prasanth Kumar (vice-capt), KS Bharat, AG Pradeep, MUB Sriram, Ricky Bhui, D Siva Kumar, Aswin Hebbar, D Naren Reddy, P Vijaykumar, CV Stephen, G Chiranjeevi, B Ayyappa, AG Praveen, B Sudhakar, K Harish.
Maharashtra: Rohit Motwani (capt), Harshad Khadiwale, Swapnil Gugale, Kedar Jadhav, Ankit Bawne, Rahul Tripathi, Chirag Khurana, Shrikant Mundhe, Nikit Dhumal, Domnic Joseph, Samad Fallah, Sangram Atitkar, Anupam Sanklecha, Naushad Shaikh, Akshay Darekar.
Stats and trivia
- KS Bharat is placed fourth in the list of season's highest run-getters with 738 runs. With the season coming to an end for the top three batsmen - Sheldon Jackson (819), Paras Dogra (813) and Hanuma Vihari (780) - Bharat is in with a good chance to top the charts with a solid knock against Maharashta.
- D Siva Kumar, CV Stephen and Samad Fallah have all accounted for 32 dismissals this season. If either of them runs through the opposition batting line-up, he will take a giant leap towards the top spot, occupied by Rishi Dhawan with 40 wickets.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo