Maharashtra test for Mumbai

Group toppers Maharashtra will play defending champions Mumbai, who barely made it to the knock-out stage, in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal that promises to be a keen fight at the Wankhede Stadium, starting here on Wednesday.

While Maharashtra advanced to the elimination phase by finishing on top of Group C, 40-time champions Mumbai staged a grand comeback from the brink in Group A. 

After conceding a 99-run first innings lead to Gujarat in their final league game, Mumbai won outright to qualify for the quarterfinal.

Though the visitors from across the Sahyadri ranges topped their group that consisted of the championship’s weakest teams, they would find Mumbai - bolstered by the return of veteran pacer Zaheer Khan and all-rounder Abhishek Nayar - a tough nut to crack in the latter’s backyard.

Zaheer, who will lead the hosts, is available for this game after missing a few earlier when he was with the Indian team in South Africa and his mere presence would lift the Mumbai bowling attack on a track that generally has bounce and assists pacers for the first couple of days.

Bengal face Railways 

High on confidence after recording back-to-back wins, hosts Bengal would look to derail the Railways team when they clash at the Eden Gardens, weeks after an ugly ‘Mankaded’ incident marred the league encounter between the two teams.

After being written off in the league stage, two-time champions Bengal turned it around by beating Uttar Pradesh (home) and Tamil Nadu (away) to storm into the quarters for the first time since 2008-09 when they were ousted by TN.

There has been an intense rivalry between the two teams this season after Railways skipper Murali Kartik ‘Mankaded’ Sandipan Das and Bengal players refused the customary handshake after conceding three points in hot-tempered encounter in New Delhi.

Both the teams today termed it “history” as all eyes would be on the rival teams and their on the field behaviour.

J&K take on Punjab

Having proved their mettle at the group league stage, a determined Jammu and Kashmir are ready to lock horns with formidable Punjab that consist of senior players like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in their maiden quarterfinal appearance.

On paper, it might be a ‘David vs Goliath’ contest but Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh knows well that it would be foolish to take Perveez Rasool and Co lightly as Rajasthan had showed during the 2010-11 season when they emerged from the ‘Plate Group’ to win Ranji Trophy defeating Mumbai and Tamil Nadu in the quarter and semifinals.

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