Vinay Kumar (R) led Karnataka are title contenders in Ranji Trophy 2017-18
Vinay Kumar (R) led Karnataka are title contenders in Ranji Trophy 2017-18

If one goes through the top run-getters list in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18, two players each from Karnataka and Vidarbha feature in it. On the bowling front, Krishnappa Gowtham has been Karnataka’s regular wicket-taker, while Vidarbha’s Akshay Wakhare has claimed 29 scalps. Both teams remain unbeaten in the tournament, with 5 wins each. Out of Karnataka’s victories, they have won by an innings to spare on three occasions. Vidarbha have accounted for two innings victories along with a 412-run hammering over Kerala in the quarter-finals. In short, there is not much to differentiate between both sides ahead of the second semi-final clash at Eden Gardens.

Vidarbha

Vidarbha’s batting is well placed with the in-form batsmen such as Faiz Fazal, Wasim Jaffer and Sanjay Ramaswamy. To add to it, Ganesh Satish, Karn Sharma and Akshay Wakhare stood tall when the chips were down in the must-win encounter versus Kerala. In bowling, Wakhare is at his peak. Meanwhile, Rajneesh Gurbani earned 7 wickets, and was adjudged Man of the Match. Aditya Sarwate picked a 6-for to break Kerala’s backbone.

Vidarbha’s coach, Chandrakant Pandit, has been lauded for his pitch-reading skills, placing team above individuals and pushing for victories rather than settling for draws. This has been the highlight of Vidarbha’s glorious run. Can they deliver and go past Karnataka to enter their maiden finale in Ranji Trophy?

Karnataka

Karnataka, so far, have been the best in the business in the current edition. With massive victories under their belt, they entered the quarter-finals and trounced Mumbai by an innings and 20 runs. The most significant part of their victory was not letting Mumbai off the hook for once. Vinay Kumar, who became the fourth to claim a hat-trick twice in the tournament’s history, stated during a sideline chat that his team doesn’t want to give away the momentum after bundling out Mumbai for 173. This has been the feature of Karnataka’s revival since the 2013-14 edition.

Mayank Agarwal (1,142) and Ravikumar Samarth form a formidable opening pair. Kaunain Abbas, at No. 3, and Karun Nair can consolidate if the openers provide a solid platform. Karnataka’s biggest strength is their lower order, filled with a plethora of all-rounders. Chidambaram Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, Vinay and Gowtham will come in handy.

In their bowling department, Gowtham and Vinay will like to carry on from where they had left in the quarter-finals. Sreenath Aravind has a knack of picking up vital wickets, and will test Vidarbha’s batters patience as well.

Head-to-head

In five encounters, Karnataka have beaten Vidarbha twice, while three ended in a draw.

Squads

Karnataka

Mir Kaunain Abbas, Vinay Kumar(c), Mayank Agarwal, Sreenath Aravind, Stuart Binny, Pavan Deshpande, CM Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, Krishnappa Gowtham, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, Dega Nischal, Abhishek Reddy, Ravikumar Samarth, Srinivas Sharath, Jagadeesha Suchith, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey

Vidarbha

Faiz Fazal(c), Ganesh Satish, Ravi Jangid, Rajneesh Gurbani, Wasim Jaffer, Akshay Karnewar, Lalit Yadav, Siddesh Neral, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Aditya Sarwate, Jitesh Sharma, Ravikumar Thakur, Akshay Wakhare, Apoorv Wankhade, Siddhesh Wath, Umesh Yadav, Karn Sharma, Shrikant Wagh, Shalabh Shrivastava