Karnataka ready for tricky test

Vinay Kumar's men take on dark horses Vidarbha in semis

Karnataka ready for tricky test

For a side that got better after every game in the group stage, their crushing victory over Mumbai in the quarterfinal in Nagpur has made Karnataka a lot more dangerous.

The confident bunch, led by R Vinay Kumar, will eye another collective performance against Vidarbha here at the Eden Gardens from Sunday in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy.

Karnataka thoroughly dominated the last eight fixture in Nagpur but in Vidarbha, they face a different challenge. If it was remaining focused on the job against arch-rivals and powerhouse Mumbai, Karnataka will have to stop the brilliant run of a settled Vidarbha.

It is a historic moment for the Fiaz Fazal-led side who are set to play their first ever Ranji semifinal. They staged a terrific recovery act to thump Kerala by 412 runs in the quarterfinals in Surat. Vidarbha's unbeaten run in the tournament has come on the back of consistent batting and some fine individual bowling efforts.

Their momentous occasion, however, is hit by the confusion over ace pacer Umesh Yadav's participation. The medium pacer, released by the BCCI, was absent at Saturday's practice session but was set to join the team later in the evening. The India speedster is learnt to have undergone physiotherapy for some niggles at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and it remains to be seen if he is fit to play the big game for his State.

If Vidarbha look to hold their nerve in a crunch game like this, Karnataka have enough experience to handle such high-pressure encounters. "We have been in these kind of situations. In the last four years we have won two Ranji Trophy titles. We have the experience required and it's all about going out there and playing to our plan," said Vinay.

Karnataka's seasoned pace battery hold an edge over the inexperienced attack of Vidarbha. Injury to their strike bowler Lalit Yadav comes as a big blow for them. "It looks like a very good bowling track but they might cut the grass in the evening. Kolkata has always assisted pace bowlers. Toss will definitely play a crucial role and whichever team shows the ability to fight back will go through," Vinay offered.

All-rounder Stuart Binny and youngster D Nischal both missed the previous game due to injuries but will comeback into the playing XI in place of Pavan Deshpande and Mir Kaunain Abbas. Karnataka have proven that they are one of the best all-round sides in the country by succeeding in every department. The in-form duo of opener Mayank Agarwal and off-spinner K Gowtham will be Vidarbha's threats.

Fazal has led by example for Vidarbha by surmounting 831 runs. Fazal's opening partner Sanjay Ramaswamy is not far behind, with 696 runs under his belt. Former Karnataka batsman Ganesh Satish and old warhorse Wasim Jaffer have been in good touch while Vidarbha will hope the spin duo of Akshay Wakhare and Aditya Sarwate to come good.      

While Karnataka will look to live up to their billing of favourites, Vidarbha will target  another victory to be the story of the season.

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