Vinay`s Karnataka confident against Pinal`s Baroda
Vadodara: A cracker of a contest is on the cards when last year`s runner-up Karnataka take on a resurgent Baroda in the four-day Ranji Trophy semifinals at the Reliance stadium here from Monday.
Karnataka, six-time Ranji champions, who last won the coveted title in 1998-99, have had a good season thus far with a brood of talented youngsters performing consistently with the bat and ball.
2000-01 Ranji champion Baroda, on their part, will be looking to exploit the home advantage to inch a step closer towards realising their dreams of reaching the final.
Karnataka have been the team to watch this Ranji season, winning three Super League matches including one by an innings and 33 runs against Orissa and getting the better of Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinals at Indore last week.
In the absence of senior India batsman Rahul Dravid, who is playing in the ongoing series-deciding third and final Test against South Africa, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey to spearhead the young guns who have been in blazing from right through the season.
In the pace department, the fast bowling trio of R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Sreenath Arvind have done commendably well, accounting for 65 wickets between them while veteran left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi has grabbed 25 wickets despite being in the twilight of his Ranji career.
For Baroda, the decision to shift the match from Moti Bagh ground to the Reliance Stadium has came as welcome news to the hosts. This has largely been done to stop the roaring form of Karnataka bowlers.
Baroda have played four matches at the Moti Bagh ground against Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Railways this season. In those matches, pace bowlers from either side have taken 65 wickets while spinners too have produced a fine show to take 45 wickets.
Though the hosts will miss the services of all-rounder Yusuf Pathan and medium pacer Munaf Patel who are away with the national team for the upcoming ODI series against South Africa, they still have the potential to upset Karnataka`s applecart.
Jyoti Chhaya and Ajitesh Argal have replaced Pathan and Munaf in the side.
Stylish Hyderabadi batsman Ambati Rayudu, who shifted his loyalty this season to Baroda, scored runs whenever team was in dire straits.
The experience of Connor Williams, captain Pinal Shah and Rakesh Solanki in the batting front and Kedar Deodhar, Sankalp Vohra and Swapnil Singh in the pace department have kept the Baroda juggernaut rolling this season.
If they perform like a unit, Baroda could earn the right to play either Rajasthan or Tamil Nadu in the final at Jaipur from January 11-15.