Nagpur: In what promises to be an enticing contest full of interesting sub-plots, Gujarat boasting of Ranji Trophy's highest run-getter Priyank Panchal will be pitted against Jharkhand that has top wicket-taker Shahbaz Nadeem in their ranks in the semi-final, starting tomorrow.
While both teams are not exactly traditional heavyweights but they have performed consistently on neutral venues riding on some talented but unheralded name in domestic cricket.
Gujarat has had some powerhouse batting performers like Panchal who has scored more than 1100 runs this season. Not to forget opener Samit Gohil, whose 359 not out was a world record in first class cricket for an opener who carried his bat through.
And above all the 'towering presence' of pocket sized dynamo in their skipper Parthiv Patel, who needs less than 400 runs to complete 10,000 runs in first class cricket.
With his new found confidence having hit two half centuries against England on his Test comeback, Parthiv would be eager to teach Jharkhand bowling a lesson with his explosive strokeplay.
The only player who would be missed is left arm spinner Axar Patel out due to a finger surgery. But they have a yorker specialist in Jasprit Bumrah in their ranks.
His recent inclusion in Cricket Australia's ODI Team of the Year would increase his confidence manifold and would be good practice before the upcoming limited overs series against England.
For Jharkhand, a lot will depend on how well left arm spinner Nadeem, who has 50 wickets already this season, bowls on Jamtha track.
Nadeem' s discipline needs to be complemented by likes of Rahul Shukla.
Jharkhand's batting depends a lot on young left-hander Ishan Kishan, leading the chart with 719 runs including a 273 against Delhi. His lusty hitting during fourth innings chase in quarter final against Haryana has certainly caught attention.
He will have support from veterans Saurabh Tiwary and Ishank Jaggi apart from youngster Virat Singh, who could pose challenge for Gujarat attack.
Not to forget the mentoring and strategising of Mahendra Singh Dhoni which has been a big factor.
Second Semi-final : Mumbai vs Tamil Nadu
Defending champions Mumbai`s quest for their 42nd Ranji Trophy title will go through a stern test when they take on Tamil Nadu in the semi-final, starting at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.
For the high-profile knockout clash, Mumbai have called up 17-year old Prithvi Shaw to their squad after dropping an out-of-form Kevin Almeida.
Almeida failed to make an impression in the only match he played this season, scoring 9 and 1 while opening the innings. He also spilled a catch, fielding at slips, in Hyderabad`s second innings.
Shaw, who was part of the India Under-19 squad that won the Youth Asia Cup in Sri Lanka earlier this month, scored 191 runs in five matches, including a highest score of 89.
Going into Sunday`s clash, Mumbai will aim to get a huge first innings total unlike in the quarter-final against Hyderabad which they won by 30 runs in Raipur.
With the opening duo failing to fire in both the innings against Hyderabad, Mumbai will hope that at least two batsmen in their middle order -- Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, skipper Aditya Tare and Siddesh Lad -- reach the three-figure mark.
Seasoned all-rounder Abhishek Nayar inspired the lower order batsmen with a fine half century before impressing with the cherry, to finish the quarter-final tie with figures of 9/100.
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu will look to avenge their Ranji opener`s narrow two-wicket loss to Mumbai when they take the field on Sunday.
The team`s batting has revolved around Kaushik Gandhi (726 runs at 60.50), Abhinav Mukund (689 at 62.63) and India discard Dinesh Karthik (664 at 60.36), while Baba Indrajith and Vijay Shankar have also impressed.
Tamil Nadu banked on an impressive show from their bowling department, specially the pacers -- Aswin Crist, Krishnamoorthy Vignesh and T. Natarajan -- to thrash Karnataka by seven wickets in the quarter-final. The trio have picked up 94 wickets among them.
Tamil Nadu still need to clear two more hurdles to end a 28-season drought of Ranji titles.
Mumbai: Aditya Tare (Captain, wk), Praful Waghela, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Tushar Deshpande, Royston Dias, Sufiyan Shaikh, Vijay Gohil, Akshay Girap, Eknath Kerkar, Prithvi Shaw
Tamil Nadu: Abhinav Mukund (Captain), Baba Aparajith (vc), Aswin Crist, Aushik Srinivas, Kaushik Gandhi, Baba Indrajith, Narayan Jagadeesan, Dinesh Karthik, Krishnamoorthy Vignesh, Washington Sundar, J. Kousik, M. Mohammed, T. Natarajan, Malolan Rangarajan, Rahil Shah, Laxmesha Suryaprakash.