Karnataka need to win to stay in hunt

Champs take on Kerala in crucial match today

Karnataka need to win to stay in hunt

When the final leg of Group ‘B’ matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy begins from Thursday here, defending champions Karnataka will find themselves in a precarious situation.

Having emerged champions of the competition on the previous two occasions, Karnataka haven’t had a great run this year and with two wins and as many defeats from four matches, the R Vinay Kumar-captained side are lying a lowly fifth in the table.

Jharkhand, with four wins out of five games, hold the top spot with 16 points while Gujarat, with three victories from four matches occupy the second place with 12 points.

Top two teams from the group will make it to the knockouts beginning from December 23. The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-inspired Jharkhand look good to seal the first spot from Group ‘B’ and a victory in their final group game against Railways will confirm their entry to the quarterfinals.

Apart from Jharkhand, there will be a three-way fight between Gujarat, the third-placed Kerala (8) and Karnataka for the second team from the group.

Karnataka’s batting has failed to maintain consistency and in both their defeats – against Railways and Jharkhand -- it was their batsmen who let them down with poor shows. In their remaining two matches -- against Kerala (on Thursday) and Jammu & Kashmir (on Friday), Karnataka cannot afford to lose any, if they are to stay in contention for a quarterfinal berth.

Both Kerala and Karnataka have eight points each, but the Sachin Baby-led side are third thanks to their better net run-rate (+0.675) when compared to the hosts (+010). Thus the defending champions will have to make sure that not only do they win but win big as well to improve their net run-rate.

A defeat in either of the two games will put curtains to Karnataka’s campaign and Vinay’s men will finish the season without any of the three titles that they were holding; they are already out of contention to defend Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup.

Even as Karnataka seek wins, they will also keenly follow the progress of Gujarat, who have three wins from four matches. With a net run-rate of +0.247, Gujarat can dash Karnataka’s hopes if they register victories in the final group games, as they will end with 20 points.

In case Gujarat lose one match and Karnataka win both their matches, then both the teams will be tied on 16 points. And if Jharkhand lose their final game, then all the three teams will be tied on 16 points. In this scenario, net run-rate will decide fortunes of the teams.

Vinay, Gautam back

Karnataka, meanwhile, will be bolstered by the return of injured trio of Vinay, A Mithun and CM Gautam.

Pacer HS Sharath will replace injured all-rounder Stuart Binny.

The squad: R Vinay Kumar (capt), Rahul KL, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, R Samarth, CM Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, J Suchith, A Mithun, S Arvind, Abhishek Reddy, David Mathias, Praveen Dubey, Sharath HS.

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