The eight quarter-finalists in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy have already been decided with three games left in the league phase. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the two most recent winners, have been knocked out. Who among Mumbai, Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra, Hyderabad, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Bihar will be the new champions?
Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund, who had been previously perceived as a long-format player, cranked up the tempo and showed that he wasn't a one-trick pony, making four successive fifty-plus scores, including an unbeaten 131 off 100 balls against Tripura. He seemed set to extend the streak to six, but fell narrowly short in the side's losses to Jammu & Kashmir and Haryana. No batsman had scored more runs than Abhinav's 560 in nine innings - that came at an average of 70 and strike-rate of 90.03 - until Tuesday.
Batsmen from new teams enjoyed another productive week, with Uttarakhand opener Karn Veer Kaushal headlining it by smashing the first-ever double-hundred in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The previous highest score in the Vijay Hazare Trophy was Ajinkya Rahane's 187 for Mumbai against Maharashtra in Pune in 2007-08.
Meghalaya's wicketkeeper-batsman Puneet Bisht, who had been part of the Delhi Daredevils roster before, Manipur's Yashpal Singh, and Nagaland's KB Pawan all hit at least one hundred in the past week. Shubman Gill, who had starred in India's Under-19 World Cup triumph earlier this year in New Zealand, struck three consecutive half-centuries; two of which contributed to wins for Punjab.
Spinners continued to boss the tournament. Seven of the top-ten wicket-takers were spinners, with Saurashtra's Jaydev Unadkat, Uttarakhand's Deepak Dhapola, and Maharashtra's Samad Fallah being the only seamers in the list.
Tamil Nadu's mystery spinner Varun Chakravathi, who had elbowed his way into the side following a breakout season in the 20-over Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) finished his Vijay Hazare stint with 22 wickets in nine matches. Varun, who can bowl offbreaks, legbreaks, googlies and carrom balls, was entrusted with the task of bowling in the death, too, after the team's frontline seamers T Natarajan and K Vignesh were sidelined with injuries.
Nineteen-year-old Rajasthan legspinner Rahul Chahar put Services out of contention for the knockouts with career-best returns of 5 for 29.
And remember the other Kohli - Taruwar - who was the fifth-highest scorer in India's title-winning campaign in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup? He scooped 6 for 65 with his medium-pace for Mizoram against Uttarakhand, including a hat-trick in the final over of the innings.
There were a few thrillers in the past week, with our pick being the 661-run Group B match between Uttar Pradesh and Andhra at the Palam B ground. In pursuit of 331, Andhra were left needing seven off the final over, with just two wickets in hand. Nineteen-year-old quick Shivam Mavi had No. 10 KV Sasikanth holing out off the first ball, but, having crossed over, D Ravi Teja saw Andhra home with three balls to spare. The victory took Andhra to 22 points and set up their push for the quarter-finals.
The same venue had served up another enthralling contest, where Uttar Pradesh finished at the wrong end again. Their captain Suresh Raina struck a 69-ball 66, his second successive half-century, but his wicket triggered a collapse in a chase of 228 as UP went from 152 for 3 to 164 for 7 against Kerala. Rinku Singh then gave UP hope with 33 off 38 balls, but he was the ninth batsman to be dismissed in the penultimate over. With five to defend off the last over, left-arm spinner Akshay Chandran conceded singles off his first four balls before removing No.11 Yash Dayal to seal victory for Kerala.
The game between Bengal and Jharkhand ended in controversial fashion amid fading light at the TI-Cycles Ground in Chennai, with Jharkhand declared as the winning team via VJD method, with one over left in their chase. This, after slow over rates from both sides had dragged the match to 6pm after it had started at 9am.
Shahbaz Nadeem attributed the slow over rate to the inhospitable weather in Chennai and frequent ball-changes. Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary, meanwhile, took to Twitter to accuse Jharkhand centurion Anand Singh of using a bat that was "thicker than the actual [allowed] measurements".
The match between Delhi and Madhya Pradesh was halted for over 10 minutes because of confusion over Nitish Rana's [non] dismissal. According to a report on Sportstar, Rana had been declared out after sweeping left-arm spinner Rameez Khan to fine leg. But he stood his ground and suggested it was a bump ball. The on-field umpires Rajeev Godara and Navdeep Singh then referred it to match referee Nitin Goel, who ultimately ruled him not-out. Madhya Pradesh captain Naman Ojha argued with the umpires and was subsequently charged with a violation of code of conduct.
Player to watch
Punjab opener Anmolpreet Singh played only three games this season, but still had enough time to slam two centuries: 141 off 114 balls against Goa in Alur followed by 138 off 106 balls against Karnataka in Bengaluru.
Anmolpreet, who had also been part of the Indian Board President's XI squad for the three-dayer against the visiting South Africans earlier this year, averages 65.16 in List A cricket to go with an even more sensational first-class average of 94.77.
How did the newbies fare?
Bihar were the most dominant side in the Plate Group, winning seven of their eight games; the other ended in a no result. They qualified for the knockouts after skittling Mizoram for 83 and knocking off the runs in under 16 overs.
Mizoram's heavy loss encapsulated their harsh initiation: they had managed only one win in eight matches. Sikkim fared worse, losing all their eight games to finish at rock bottom.