Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo; Bharath Seervi is stats sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
The ninth and final round of the Ranji Trophy begins on December 7, with five quarter-final spots up for grabs. Mumbai, Jharkhand and Karnataka are assured of a knockout berth, irrespective of how they fare in their last league game.
If teams were to be tied on points, which is very much a possibility across groups, the team with most outright wins will progress. If teams were to be tied on outright wins too, the team with the superior net-run-rate will qualify. We take a look at who has the best chance to join the three sides and complete the line-up for the quarter-finals starting December 24.
With 29 points in seven matches, Mumbai are assured of a quarter-final spot, irrespective of the result in their last round game against Punjab. Gujarat, who it appeared had the advantage of knowing their equation going into their final game against Bengal, are still handily placed with 25 points after the BCCI awarded both sides one point each for the New Delhi clash that was originally postponed because of smog.
While a first-innings lead or more against TN will see them through, there is also a possibility of them qualifying even if they concede a lead. They may, however, not want to go down that route.
TN would like to ensure qualification through an outright win over Gujarat. They could get through to the quarter-finals even with a first-innings lead over Gujarat. But should MP beat Bengal with a bonus point it would be down to net-run-rate between Gujarat and them. In such a case MP would qualify along with Mumbai, leaving TN and Gujarat in a net-run-rate battle for the one remaining spot.
Bengal have to win and hope there is an outright result between TN and Gujarat, while Punjab have to win with a bonus point and hope for two other results to go their way.
There's also a battle for relegation lower down. Railways will be relegated if there is no outright winner in the Baroda-Uttar Pradesh clash in Nasik. An outright loss to UP will mean Baroda will be relegated to Group C. If UP lose outright by a considerable margin, there is a possibility of their net-run-rate falling below Railways, which will lead them to relegation.
Jharkhand and Karnataka, currently the top two sides, are through, leaving Odisha, Delhi and Maharashtra in a three-way race for the final qualification spot. All three teams ideally need to win outright to control their fate.
A bonus-point win for Odisha in their postponed clash against Jharkhand will see them through irrespective of other results. If they just manage a win, they can qualify if Delhi and Maharashtra don't beat Saurashtra and Karnataka respectively with a bonus point. Delhi and Maharashtra, currently tied on 21 points, will be involved in a net-run-rate battle for qualification if they both win or take a first-innings lead, provided Odisha loses outright.
With no matches left and currently placed at the bottom, Assam, semi-finalists of the 2015-16 season, will be relegated to Group C.
Three successive wins have meant Hyderabad have come storming back to top the group. At least a first-innings lead against Andhra will ensure a quarter-final spot for the first time since 2011-12. They can, however, ill-afford an outright loss, as it could give way to Haryana and Andhra qualifying should they win. Andhra too, ideally, need to win, but they can progress on the basis of a first-innings lead should Haryana and Kerala lose.
Haryana, tied with Andhra on 25, need to win as a first-innings lied that could tie them on points with Andhra, may not be enough since they have just two outright wins to Andhra's three. Kerala, meanwhile, will need to win outright and then hope Andhra and Haryana lose to qualify. Goa, with 18, can at best get to 25, but with their net-run-rate in the negatives, they are all but out barring a massive win and several other results going their way.
Note: A tie in any of the final round games hasn't been accounted for. Only one match in the tournament's 83-year history has ended in a tie.
10.20GMT: The scenarios have been tweaked to reflect BCCI's decision to award Bengal, Gujarat, Hyderabad and Tripura one point each for their cancelled fixtures.