New Delhi: The fourth round of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season gets underway across the country on Saturday, with eight teams having posted outrights wins so far. With several others having moved up the points table with draws in round three, the middle area is getting packed and that puts pressure on the lower-rung teams.
Here’s a look at the Group C matches starting November 24.
Jharkhand v Himachal Pradesh at Ranchi: Aakash Chopra’s Himachal Pradesh are out to reduce the gap between them and the top two teams in Group C, but how they tackle Jharkhand’s strong spin-bowling attack could influence the result of this match.
Jharkhand have been carried by their captain, the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, and offspinner Sunny Gupta. Nadeem is the leading wicket-taker this season with 24 and behind him at third is Gupta with 20. The slow-bowling pair remains the big threat to Himachal, but the visitors will bank the strength of their batting to outdo Nadeem and Gupta.
In four innings in the current season, Paras Dogra has 462 runs at 115.50, with three centuries (one a double), and the 28-year-old remains the prized wicket for opposition teams. Amit Kumar (230 runs at 76.66) and Rishi Dhawan (153 at 76.50) are the other key batsman for Himachal, but runs from Chopra would really be a boost for the team.
Jharkhand failed to solidify their place at the top of the Group C table in the last round, where they were left with three points after a tame draw against Goa. Having made 360 in their first innings, Jharkhand bowled Goa out for 208 on day three. They will be out to get back to winnings ways and catch up with Assam, who lead the group with 16 points.
Jammu & Kashmir v Andhra at Jammu: Andhra, with seven points from three matches, will fancy their chances of a first outright win when they meet Group C basement dwellers Jammu & Kashmir.
Andhra have steadily improved with each round. In the first they conceded three points to Services in a rain-hit match at home, but against Tripura their openers hit centuries to secure the first-innings lead over Tripura. Then their bowlers came good against Himachal last round to claim three more. While its all coming together for Andhra, the same cannot be said about the home team.
J&K have struggled to compete – they lost by an innings to Jharkhand and conceded the first-innings lead to Goa - and will have to produce something extraordinary to get their first win of the season.
Kerala v Goa at Mallapuram: Kerala host Goa with a two-point deficit on the Group C table, and will hope their batsmen tip the scales in their favour. With two draws - against Himachal Pradesh and Assam - from as many matches, Kerala have two points compared to Goa’s four - three points against J&K and one against Jharkhand.
Their reliance will be on openers Abhishek Hegde and V A Jagadeesh and the middle-order pair of Rohan Prem and Sanju Samson, each of whom have scored centuries this season. Kerala’s bowling has been unspectacular, with only left-arm spinner K Sreejith managing a five-wicket haul.
For Goa, the key batsmen are the top-order pair of Swapnil Asnodkar – who hit a century against J&K – and new recruit Manvinder Bisla who has made his presence felt immediately with 184 runs at 61.33. With Amogh Desai, Ravikant Shukla and Reagan Pinto also scoring fifties this season, it is Goa’s batting that poses the biggest threat to Kerala. Shadab Jakati, the left-arm spinner and captain, and medium-pacer Saurabh Bandekar are tied on seven wickets apiece.
Read the preview of Services v Assam here.