Ranji Trophy: How Bengal, Saurashtra, Uttarakhand and Andhra reached the quarter-finals

With the knockout stage starting on January 31, we take a look at the qualifiers from Group A and Group B

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
File photo: Bengal were dominant for much of the group stage  •  CAB

File photo: Bengal were dominant for much of the group stage  •  CAB

A league phase that saw plenty of high points and close contests has left eight quarter-finalists trying to take one more step towards the Ranji Trophy crown for 2022-23 Here's a quick look at the qualifiers from Groups A and B.


Won 4, Lost 1, Drawn 2 (2 first-innings lead); Points - 32
Twice this season, against Uttar Pradesh and Baroda, Bengal were on the back foot. But both times, they showed immense self belief to turn things around and win. These two games aside, Bengal flexed their muscles for much of the group stages before being given an eye-opener by Odisha in their final group fixture on an Eden green top, where they missed the services of Anustup Majumdar (thumb injury) and Akash Deep (concussion) and Shahbaz Ahmed (national duty). Bengal want to win for Manoj Tiwary, who is determined to bow out with a Ranji Trophy title. They came close two seasons ago, but were pipped by Saurashtra in the final. Can they emulate Sambaran Banerjee's class of 1989-90? First-up is Jharkhand, their east-zone rivals.
Top performer
Bengal have rewarded performers, irrespective of age. Anustup Majumdar, 38, has been a shining example. He has lived up to his billing as a crisis man and is their second-highest run-getter with 565 runs in 10 innings at 62.77. Purely on impact, his 83 not out in the second-innings of a tough 257 chase in their opening game stands out. Overall, he's so far hit two hundreds and two fifties. Bengal will be hoping he recovers from a thumb injury ahead of the quarters.


Won 3, Lost 0, Drawn 4 (4 first-innings lead); Points - 29
Amid allegations of financial mismanagement by the association, players complaining of lack of facilities and pending payments, and "influential" members interfering in selection, the cricket has continued to thrive in Uttarakhand. In the quarterfinals last season, when they were beaten in a little over two days by Mumbai, who recorded the biggest win in terms of runs in first-class cricket, it threatened to blow their lid off. But a young group has rallied together under a new captain in Jiwanjot Singh to surprise some big teams. Wins over Nagaland and Odisha set them up, before they cracked open the group by rolling over Himachal Pradesh, runners-up of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, for 49 and winning their third straight game. First-innings honours against UP and Baroda sealed their knockouts berth.
Top performer
Mayank Mishra has become one of Uttarakhand's lynchpins over time. The left-arm spinner leads their wickets tally with 32 scalps in seven matches. In doing so, he's proved to be equally successful against Elite teams, too. His match haul of ten wickets against Bengal is a case in point. Capable of wheeling away and bowling long spells by holding one end together, Mishra has given the fast bowlers much relief in terms of being able to maintain pressure.


Won 3, Lost 2, Drawn 2 (2 first-innings lead); Points - 26
A slow start in the first two games was followed by a historic first-ever win against Mumbai. Then Saurashtra got on a roll to beat Delhi and Hyderabad to steer clear of the logjam. However, going into the knockouts, they've been given a reality check following losses to Andhra and Tamil Nadu. As if that wasn't enough, they will be without their inspirational captain Jaydev Unadkat, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, who led them in the final league fixture, because of national commitments. That said, Saurashtra have shown they aren't just about their superstars. This has helped them get to two finals in the last three seasons, including a historic first title in 2020. Against Punjab, they will have their task cut out nonetheless.
Top performer(s)
If Ravindra doesn't get you, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja will. The left-arm spinning allrounder has been key to Saurashtra's success. In the lower middle order, he's played plucky knocks, like a second-innings 90 on a turner against Mumbai in a match-winning effort. In the same match, he also returned six wickets with the ball in a 51-run win. Overall, he's their highest wicket-taker with 29 wickets in seven matches. There should also be a special mention for rookie Yuvrajsinh Dodiya, who in his debut season has rocked up and picked up 26 wickets in just five games with his loopy offspin, having been able to capitalise on the rough created from one end by Jadeja.


Won 4, Lost 2, Drawn 1 (2 first-innings lead); Points - 32
In what was billed as a group of death, Andhra were laggards until more than halfway through the season, before they suddenly roared to form in the new year. The turnaround began with a massive win over traditional rivals Hyderabad at home. Yet, when they conceded the lead in the next game against Delhi, they were faced with two must-wins to remain in contention. One of those was away against Saurashtra. Herculean enough but they found heroes in Ashwin Hebbar and Karan Shinde to steer them to a mighty fine win. Then against Assam, Andhra established their dominance early to win with a bonus point. Despite winning four, they needed Mumbai and Maharashtra to take away no more than one point from their final game. As luck would have it, both sides tied for scores with the game ending in a draw. Quirk of fate saw Andhra through.
Top performer
No Andhra batter has more than one century, and in all fairness, the surfaces they've played on have been challenging. Lalith Mohan, the left-arm spinner, has profited the most and has delivered wholesome returns, like the match haul of 11 for 129 in the must-win game against Saurashtra. He followed that up with a second straight five-for in their final game - also a must-win - against Assam. Mohan has 25 wickets in five matches, second-most for the team behind fast bowler KV Sasikanth's 26 wickets.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo