Spirited Karnataka takes on formidable Punjab in Ranji
Hubli: With back-to-back victories in last two matches, a spirited Karnataka will look to continue their good work and race past Mumbai in the points-table when they lock horns against formidable Punjab here on Friday.
Karnataka have 19 points from five games and are placed next to table-toppers Mumbai, who have accounted for 20 points so far from their matches.
Karnataka, whose qualification to the knockouts is far from secured, will hope to register an outright win as they did against Odisha and Haryana, to get vitals points before taking on heavyweights Mumbai and Delhi in next two matches.
On paper, Karnataka`s batting line-up looks strong. Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, Ganesh Satish and CM Gautam, have been the real force behind the home side`s batting.
With 495 runs under his belt, Rahul has been in scintillating form, cracking one century and two half centuries.
The form of Pandey, Satish and Gautam, in the middle order will not be a cause of concern for captain R Vinay Kumar ahead of the crucial match against Punjab at the KSCA Stadium.
All-rounder Stuart Binny, who has been doing a useful job with his medium pacers, helped Karnataka wriggle out from the jaws of defeat against Haryana with his unbeaten 31-run knock in a low-scoring match.
Among their bowlers, pacers Abhimanyu Mithun and H S Sharath have been among wickets so far and would like to continue the good work.
Right-arm medium pacer Ronit More scalped seven wickets at Rohtak and he would go into the match with his tails up. Binny and spinner KP Appanna also have been among wickets.
Punjab, on the other hand, had little to cheer as they settled for just one point after their match against Vidarbha ended in a draw.
However, captain Mandeep Singh would be pumped up as his team is perched third in the points-table and would aim to dethrone Karnataka from the second spot.
Jiwanjot Singh and Mandeep have been the batting mainstay for Punjab, who together have scored 744 runs between them for the state.
The visitors` batting lineup certainly looks bullish after Jiwanjot and Uday Kaul notched up a double hundred and century, respectively against Vidarbha.
Both would like to carry the form forward against the hosts on a pitch where Cheteshwar Pujara and Gautam Gambhir belted triple century and century for India A against West Indies A.
In bowling department, Punjab will be missing the services of their captain Harbhajan Singh, who is recuperating from a shoulder injury, which has kept him out of action from Punjab`s last two Ranji Trophy encounters.
The off-spinner is expected to return to competitive cricket in another 10 days time.
Punjab, however, will look up to Sandeep Sharma and D P Singh to repeat their performances against Vidarbha. Sharma finished with figures of five for 90 and Singh four for 89.