Ranji Trophy 2022-23, Quarter-Finals: Bengal to face Madhya Pradesh while Karnataka pitted against Saurashtra in semi-finals.
The 88th season of Ranji Trophy began back on December 13 with a total of 32 teams in the fray . The teams were divided into four Elite groups and six teams were placed in the Plate group. Seven weeks of intense and exciting games from different sides have given the fans around the country a number of reasons to enjoy the beauty of first-class cricket.
With 33 points and 27 points respectively, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab qualified for the quarter final from Group D, while Karnataka and Jharkhand got promoted to the quarter-final stage with 35 points and 23 points, respectively, from Group C. From Group B, Andhra Pradesh and Saurashtra reached the QF stage with 26 points each; Bengal and Uttarakhand found a place in the QF stage from Group A with 32 points and 29 points, respectively.
Amongst the batting performances, Delhi’s Dhruv Shorey is the current leading run-scorer in this season with 859 runs in seven games at an average of 95.44 and strike rate of 65.37 including three centuries and couple of fifties. In the bowling department, Kerala’s Jalaj Saxena holds the top place with 50 wickets in seven games at an average of 19.26 and strike rate of 41.9 including six five-wicket hauls and couple of ten-wicket hauls.
Let’s scan the top four quarter final games which produced some brave and incredible shows from the domestic teams.
Bengal vs Jharkhand, QF 1: Akash Deep, Easwaran shoulder Bengal to the semi-final
Brief Scores: Bengal 328 (Shahbaz 81, Easwaran 77, Ashish 3/89) & 69/1 (Easwaran 28*, Shukla 1/24) beat Jharkhand 173 (Suraj 89*, Akash Deep 4/62) & 221 (Aryaman 64, Supriyo 41*, Ghatak 3/21) by 9 wickets
Player of the Match: Akash Deep (4/62 & 2/46)
Bengal have been fantastic in this season of Ranji Trophy with four wins in seven league games including one draw besides just one defeat. Two of the four victories were by an innings which spoke about their total dominance over the opponents, while Jharkhand had three wins in seven games with two drawn games.
In the first quarter-final against Jharkhand at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Bengal on winning the toss opted to field first under overcast conditions. Only number three batter Kumar Suraj stood tall for Jharkhand with his unbeaten 89-run knock with the help of 10 boundaries, as Akash Deep who has been superb with the ball for Bengal returned figures of 4/62 and along with Mukesh Kumar (3/61) bundled out the opponents for just 173.
The first innings was definitely going to be vital for the home side as they managed to reach 328 thanks to Shahbaz Ahmed’s 81-run knock with the help of nine boundaries and couple of maximums. At the top of the order, Abhimanyu Easwaran (77) and Sudip Gharami (68) batted beautifully to gift Bengal a heavy 155-run lead.
Jharkhand didn’t have a good start in the second innings too as they quickly found themselves in all sorts of trouble at 21/4. Opener Aryaman Sen with his 64-run knock with the help of 10 boundaries and one six and a few lower order batting shows could take Jharkhand to 221 as Bengal chased down 67 runs in just 12.4 overs to earn the semi-final ticket.
Abhimanyu Easwaran is the leading run scorer for Bengal in this season with 738 runs in six games at an average of 92.25 and strike rate of 60 including three centuries and three fifties.
Karnataka vs Uttarakhand, QF 2: Shreyas Gopal’s 161 with strong top order batting takes Karnataka over the line
Brief Scores: Karnataka 606 (Gopal 161*, Agarwal 83, Negi 4/109) beat Uttarakhand 116 (Chandela 31, Venkatesh 5/36) & 209 (Swapnil 51, Gopal 3/26, Vyshak 3/55) by an innings and 281 runs
Player of the Match: Shreyas Gopal (161*, 3/26)
Undefeated Karnataka have been on fire coming into the quarter final of Ranji Trophy 2022-23 with four victories and three draws in seven games. All of their victories were by a huge margin as they beat Puducherry by an innings besides their 10-wicket win over Rajasthan. Even Uttarakhand who started the season with three victories, were undefeated in seven games of the season.
In the second quarter final at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, Karnataka on winning the toss opted to field first in an aim to take some early help from the track. No Uttarakhand batter had any answer to the excellent bowling by Karnataka bowlers as the home side packed the opponents for just 116 runs with debutant right-arm fast bowler Venkatesh returning with figures of 5/36 in his 14 overs.
In reply, Karnataka started with a strong opening partnership of 159 runs. All the top four batters - Ravikumar Samarth (82), captain Mayank Agarwal (83), Devdutt Padikkal (69) and Nikin Jose (62) - crossed the half-century landmark but none could take it to three figures. But Shreyas Gopal who has transformed himself into a pure batter smashed a superb career-best unbeaten 161-run knock with the help of 16 fours and one six to shoulder his side to 606 in the first innings taking a huge lead of 490 runs.
Uttarakhand didn’t begin well with the bat in the second innings, as they were struggling on 56/3. Middle order batter Swapnil Singh with his 51-run knock showed some fight but he didn’t get any support from his teammates as Uttarakhand got bowled out for 209. Vijaykumar Vyshak and Shreyas Gopal ended with three-wicket hauls each to book Karnataka’s semi-final berth with a humongous victory by an innings and 281 runs.
Saurashtra vs Punjab, QF 3: Parth Bhut’s superb effort takes Saurashtra to the semis
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 303 (Parth 111*, Snell 70, Markande 4/84) & 379 (Mankad 88, Vasavada 77, Vinay 7/179) beat Punjab 431 (Naman 131, Prabhsimran 126, D Jadeja 5/109) & 180 (Mandeep 45, Parth 5/89, D Jadeja 3/56) by 71 runs
Player of the Match: Parth Bhut (111*, 51, 3/114, 5/89)
Saurashtra have been such an incredible story this season; they began with two drawn results before three back-to-back wins as they ended the group stage with two consecutive defeats. On the flip of the coin, Punjab were undefeated in this season with three wins and four drawn games.
In the third quarter-final of this Ranji Trophy at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) Stadium in Rajkot, Saurashtra on winning the toss decided to bat first. At 147/8, they were trying to get close to the 200-run mark but the partnerships for the last two wickets of 61 runs and 95 runs, respectively, thanks to the unbeaten 111-run knock from Parth Bhut propelled the home side to 303.
The 212-run stand for the opening wicket laid a strong platform for Punjab with both openers Prabhsimran Singh (126) and Naman Dhir (131) reaching their personal centuries. Captain Mandeep Singh also fired up with a 91-run knock as Punjab grabbed a 128-run lead finishing on 431. Saurashtra again struggled at the top with 60/4 but twin 77s from captain Arpit Vasavada and Chirag Jani with another 88-run knock from Prerak Mankad and 51 from Parth powered Saurashtra to 379. Left-arm spinner Vinay Choudhary registered 7/179.
Defending 251, Saurashtra began superbly sending back both the inform openers early in the hut. The last day started with an equation of Punjab needing 200 runs while the home side eyeing for eight more wickets. After the dismissal of the nightwatchman, Punjab got few decent partnerships on both sides of losing a couple of quick wickets. But the Saurashtra bowlers didn't allow the batters to score freely as the pressure of scoring those runs saw Punjab losing three wickets for just 10 runs to find themselves at 166/8.
Parth Bhut inspired the whole team with his figures of 5/89 in 33 overs and got full support from Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, who after taking a first innings five-wicket haul returned with figures of 3/56 in 38 overs, as Punjab got bundled out for 180 to gift Saurashtra a 71-run victory and the ticket for the semi-final.
Madhya Pradesh vs Andhra, QF 4: MP came from behind to extend their last year heroics
Brief Scores: Madhya Pradesh 228 (Shubham 51, Prithvi Raj 5/26) & 245/5 (Yash 58, Rajat 55, Prithvi Raj 2/50) beat Andhra 379 (Bhui 149, Shinde 110, Anubhav 4/72) & 93 (Ashwin Hebbar 35, Avesh 4/24, Gaurav 3/10) by 5 wickets
Player of the Match: Prithvi Raj Yarra (5/26 & 2/50)
Defending champions Madhya Pradesh, just like in the last season, were fantastic with five wins in seven games besides one defeat & one drawn result while Andhra Pradesh had four wins in seven games besides two drawn results.
In the fourth quarter-final between Madhya Pradesh and Andhra at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, the home side Madhya Pradesh on winning the toss opted to field first. Andhra Pradesh found themselves in early trouble on 58/2 but the 265-run stand for the third wicket thanks to the twin centuries of Ricky Bhui (149) and Karan Shinde (110) advanced AP to 379 as captain Hanuma Vihari after being injured early in the game showed courage to support his team.
Madhya Pradesh in reply didn’t stand up well with the bat in hands as only Shubham Sharma managed to cross the half-century mark. Prithvi Raj Yarra’s figures of 5/26 blew away the home side for just 228 and conceding a lead of 151 runs. But expressive bowling from Avesh Khan (4/24) and Gaurav Yadav (3/10) rolled out AP for just 93 with Ashwin Hebbar being the highest run-scorer with 35 runs.
In chasing 245, Madhya Pradesh began in a strong way with a 58-run opening partnership with couple of half centuries from Yash Dubey and Rajat Patidar. Himanshu Mantri too played an aggressive innings at the top as Madhya Pradesh chased down the target of 245 runs with five wickets in hand to reach back-to-back semifinals.
Bengal will now face Madhya Pradesh in the first semifinal at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on February 8, while on the same day, Karnataka will lock horns with Saurashtra in the second semi-final at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.