Quarters in sight, Karnataka face struggling MP

Bengal take on J&K at Eden Gardens

Quarters in sight, Karnataka face struggling MP

Unbeaten thus far this season, defending champions Karnataka will face Madhya Pradesh in their fifth-round match of Group A here from Tuesday.

Karnataka have 25 points from four games, and are sitting on top of the group. A win or draw with three points here would secure them a berth in the quarterfinals, and on paper MP do not have the ammunition to challenge the visitors.

They are languishing on seventh spot in the nine-team group, with a loss and four draws for eight points. Old warhorse and skipper Devendra Bundela is their biggest hope to blunt a Karnataka attack that has so far steamrolled everything in its path.

Skipper R Vinay Kumar, their leading wicket-taker of the season, A Mithun and left-arm seamer S Arvind have given precious little away to opponents, relishing some green tops that were on offer. The 22-yard strip here too promises to be a green-tinged one, and the inexperienced MP batting line-up will have to show immense poise to survive the test.

“The pitch here has the reputation of being helpful to pacers, and it lived up to that name during the match between MP and Railways. It could be a bit tough for batsmen, but our bowlers have been in good touch so far. So, we are expecting an all-round show this time against MP,” said Mansur Ali Khan, the bowling coach of Karnataka.

The Karnataka top-order batsmen, consisting some heavy-duty hitters, have so far gone through a lean run with only one of them making a hundred. Robin Uthappa made a brilliant 156 against Jammu & Kashmir at Hubballi last week. Other than Uthappa, only Shreyas Gopal has managed a three-figure knock. CM Gautam has been their most consistent batsman. The wicketkeeper batsman, who has returned to number six this season, has held together Karnataka batting with some gritty efforts.

Uthappa admitted the need for some more runs from the top-order. “Bowlers have kept us in the hunt so far. We have done well considering that we have been batting on some green strips. Hopefully, a stronger show from the top order batsmen is just around the corner,” said Uthappa. The onus on the frontline batsmen has doubled as all-rounder Stuart Binny will not be a part of the team from this match, as he has been drafted into India’s ODI squad for the tri-series and the World Cup.

The biggest threat for an underwhelming batting line-up will come from MP pacer Ishwer Pandey. The strapping paceman on his day can run through any side, and Karnataka will have to keep an eye for him. Those minor threats notwithstanding, Karnataka are well set to extend their undefeated run.

Bengal host J&K
Boosted by Sourav Ganguly’s pep talk and the return of Wriddhiman Saha, Bengal will look to bounce back by logging six points against a struggling Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in their Group A match.

The return of wicketkeeper batsman Saha will lend stability to the batting line-up and Shreevats Goswami will play as a specialist batsman.

On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir will look bounce back after their defeat at the hands of Karnataka.

"If we could beat Mumbai in Mumbai then why can't we do it here. Obviously, it would a special moment to play at he Eden Gardens and the boys are all excited," said Parvez Rasool.

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