Karnataka eye top spot

Vinay Kumar's men take on Railways in final group game

Karnataka eye top spot

After two forgettable years, Karnataka are eager to recover their aura in domestic cricket.

The season has begun on a bright note for them, having stormed their way to the knockouts, but they are in no mood to relax. The battle is now to top Group A and the eight-time champions will be relentless in grabbing full points against Railways at the Karnail Singh stadium here on Saturday.

Spurred by brilliant individual performances, Karnataka are among the three teams to have already qualified for the quarterfinals along with Delhi and Vidarbha (Group D). Even though both Karnataka and Delhi have three wins and two draws from five matches, the southern side is currently leading by two points at 26, courtesy two victories by an innings margin.

However, if Karnataka draw the match and Delhi pick a win, then the latter will top the table. If both win, Karnataka will be the leader.

Karnataka are brimming with confidence following their glut of runs against Uttar Pradesh. They went through the rigours in the nippy environs at the stadium on Friday in the company of various hockey players and athletes attending a Railway camp. The barren pitch is inviting for spinners and in all likelihood the two sides will go with a spin-friendly attack.

Karnataka batsmen have showcased rich form this season. They have got impressive starts from openers Mayank Agarwal (757 runs) and R Samarth (547), with seniors Karun Nair (383), Manish Pandey (346) and Stuart Binny (317) keeping up the momentum with consistent contributions. Even D Nischal, with 211 runs in two matches, has reflected the strong bench strength which is at the disposal of Karnataka.

Their squad is filled with players, who are either in contention for national team or hold experience of playing for India. Karnataka enjoys a rare healthy mix which is to constantly inspire each other to aspire for the next level. Vinay, himself, is gearing up for a comeback to the Indian team.

"My personal ambition is definitely to come back to Indian team. My performance has been really good. But before that winning Ranji Trophy for me is the first criteria," said Vinay, who has taken 14 wickets this season.

He has been well supported by off-spinner K Gowtham (17), seamer Abhimanyu Mithun (15) and leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (14).

"It has been really good so far. Things are going really well. All the departments have been covered. Our fielding has also been good. Earlier fast bowling was out strength, but we now have an equally good spin attack."

For Railways, it has been an inconsistent season, but still better than previous years. They are placed fourth on the table, with two victories, which included a thrilling one against UP.

"We began well but failed to build on it. We could have done better," admitted Railways captain Mahesh Rawat.

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