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Gritty Madhya Pradesh Look To Outwit Formidable Vidarbha In Semifinal

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Nagpur, Mar 1 (PTI) A resolute Madhya Pradesh is faced with the daunting task of taming Vidarbha in their home ground, which the hosts have turned into an impregnable citadel this season, when the familiar foes clash in the Ranji Trophy semifinal here from Saturday.

Two-time champions Vidarbha have played four matches at the VCA Stadium this season, and they have won three of them with the solitary defeat coming against Saurashtra.

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Those victories have come with convincing margins too – seven wickets against Services, 115 runs against Haryana and 127 runs against Karnataka in the quarterfinals.

The biggest strength of Vidarbha throughout this season has been the collective contribution of their batsmen.

They have found different heroes in veteran Karun Nair (515 runs), import from Delhi Dhruv Shorey (496), top-order batter Atharva Taide (488) and skipper Akshay Wadkar (452). All of them have bailed them out of the woods on different occasions.

The Nagpur pitch has often acted as an ally of the batters but Vidarbha have also been fortunate to have the services of two lion-hearted bowlers – pacer Aditya Thakare and left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate.

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They have grabbed 68 wickets together so far this season, seldom allowing their opponents to dictate the course of the match.

Sarwate’s four-wicket burst against Karnataka is a pointer.

Karnataka had reached 103 for 1 while chasing 371 at close on Day 4, but Sarwate bowled an excellent spell on the fifth day to bundle out the visitors for 243.

But then giving an upper-hand to Vidarbha based on that bull run at home could be a tad not fair as well.

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Madhya Pradesh, the 2022 champions, have walked through rings of fire to enter the last four stage.

They managed just three outright wins in eight league matches while fiercely battling in other games to gain first innings lead.

Even in their quarterfinal match against Andhra, MP were on the brink of elimination before clawing back to eke out a four-run win.

The biggest positive for them this season has been the renewed hunger for runs shown by Venkatesh Iyer. Having lost his way in the India scheme of things, Iyer has amassed 528 runs at an average of 52 with a hundred and four fifties.

The left-hander has been well-supported by Himanshu Mantri (513) and Yash Dubey (510). They have shouldered the responsibility of MP’s batting in the absence of Rajat Patidar, who is away on national duty.

MP’s bowling will revolve around the versatile Kumar Kartikeya, who can bowl both orthodox left-arm spin as well as the left-arm wrist spin version.

The Mumbai Indians all-rounder has contributed 38 wickets to his team’s bowling chart this year.

Veteran off-spinner Saransh Jain (27 wickets) and left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya (26 wickets) have backed Kartikeya ably.

But beyond these, the biggest strength of MP is the presence of astute tactician Chandrakant Pandit, their head coach.

The stern taskmaster knows how to get the best from his wards under pressure.

In fact, Vidarbha players will vouch for that because it was Pandit who orchestrated their title run in two successive seasons – 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Teams (from):

Vidarbha: Atharva Taide, Dhruv Shorey, Yash Rathod, Karun Nair, Akshay Wadkar (wk/captain), Mohit Kale, Aditya Sarwate, Harsh Dubey, Yash Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Aditya Thakare, Faiz Fazal, Akshay Wakhare, Sanjay Raghunath, Rajneesh Gurbani, Lalit M Yadav, Siddhesh Wath, Jitesh Sharma, Darshan Nalkande, Shubham Dubey.

Madhya Pradesh: Yash Dubey, Himanshu Mantri (wk), Harsh Gawli, Shubham S Sharma (captain), Venkatesh Iyer, Sumit Kushwah, Saransh Jain, Anubhav Agarwal, Kumar Kartikeya, Avesh Khan, Kulwant Khejroliya, Amarjeet Singh, Aditya Shrivastava, Mihir Hirwani, Rishabh Chouhan, Aryan Pandey.

Match starts at 9.30 AM.

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