Punjab look to take advantage of home conditions in Ranji s/f

PTI| Updated: Jan 17, 2014, 19:05 PM IST

Mohali: Punjab would be looking to make the most of home conditions when they take on a formidable Karnataka side in the semifinal of the Ranji Trophy starting here from Saturday.

Harbhajan Singh-led Punjab were comprehensively beaten by Karnataka in the group stages in Hubli last month and would be keen on returning the favour when the two teams square off in what promises to be an exciting encounter.

The home team would expect that Yuvraj Singh, who has been a proven match-winner, plays a timely knock as he has not done anything worth noting in the four matches that he has played for Punjab.

Harbhajan had impressed with the willow scoring 92 against Jammu & Kashmir but the senior off-spinner would like to shine with the red cherry adding to his tally of 20 wickets in four games.

Youngsters Jiwanjot Singh and Mandeep Singh, who hit a match-winning hundred against J&K, have steadied Punjab`s batting during the season. The team would be also hoping for sizeable contributions from opener Manan Vohra and allrounder Gurkeerat Singh.

Punjab bowling attack would be led by pacer Sandeep Sharma who has 35 wickets from seven matches this season, while seamers Manpreet Gony and VRV Singh will be banked upon for their experience.

Karnataka, on the other side, will be hoping that their talented opener KL Rahul, who has so far scored 869 runs, continues his red-hot form.

Burly opener Robin Uthappa who returned to the team after recovering from his injury, will be a threat for the opposition after his attacking century against Uttar Pradesh in the quarterfinals.

Manish Pandey and Karun Nair also make up for a formidable line-up.

However, the visitors will miss the services of their premier pacer HS Sharath who has been sidelined due to an injury along with
top-order batsman Ravi Kumar Samarth.

Abhimanyu Mithun, highest wicket-taker for his side this season, would spearhead the Karnataka bowling unit in company of skipper Vinay Kumar.

Last-year semifinalists Punjab, would be gunning for a spot in the final after nine years when they lost the title to Railways, while Karnataka, who were ousted in the last-eight stages in 2012-13, would like to move a step closer to their seventh cup.