Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra will be out to seal its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal spot when it hosts Andhra Pradesh in a sixth-round match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot from Tuesday.
Into his 13th year in senior cricket, Unadkat will mark a special moment when he takes the field for his 100th First-Class appearance on his home turf.
Placed comfortably atop the Elite Group B standings with 26 points from three wins and two draws, Saurashtra has emerged as the team to beat in a group where heavyweights have struggled with wavering form.
After two grinding draws, Saurashtra earned a morale-boosting win against second-placed Mumbai, without regular skipper Unadkat and Cheteshwar Pujara in late December.
Unadkat’s return to the side after his remarkable India Test call-up has bolstered Saurashtra’s results by a fair margin – it earned two successive innings wins for 14 points.
The left-arm seamer sizzled with a first-over hat-trick and claimed his best First-Class bowling figures (8/39) against Delhi before jolting a wobbly Hyderabad with six wickets last week.
Saurashtra’s batting has hinged on its collective success rather than trailblazers hogging the charts. However, with the impending Border-Gavaskar Tests, India’s batting mainstay Pujara will be in focus after his lowly 25 in the previous round.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh (14 points) is ranked fourth in a group where Mumbai and Maharashtra are battling for the second knockout spot beside Saurashtra.
Andhra’s focus could shift to maintaining its lead over bottom-ranked Delhi and Hyderabad to prevent relegation to the Plate Group next season.
Coming off a dispiriting draw against Delhi, Hanuma Vihari’s men will also miss the services of wicketkeeper KS Bharat, who received a call-up to India’s squad for the New Zealand ODIs.
Saurashtra spinners Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and off-spinner Yuvrajsinh Dodiya will also pose a stern test for Andhra as the game progresses at a venue where hefty first-innings totals have been a norm.
Saurashtra – Jaydev Unadkat (C), Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson, Harvik Desai, Arpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Prerak Mankad, Samarth Vyas, Yuvrajsinh Dodiya, Chetan Sakariya, Parth Bhut, Jay Gohil, Navneet Vora, Devang Karamta, Snell Patel.
Andhra Pradesh – Hanuma Vihari (C), Ricky Bhui, Shaik Rasheed, Ashwin Hebbar, Karan Shinde, KV Sasikanth, Shoaib Khan, Manish, Abhishek Reddy, Lalith Mohan, Tapaswi, Prithvi Raj, Vamsikrishna, Gnaneshwar, Nitish Kumar Reddy, Ums Girinath, Ashish, Karthik Raman, Sudharsan