Kolkata: Chasing a treble, Ranji champions Karnataka will be eyeing to continue their dream run, while Bengal will be under pressure against Railways in a grudge match in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semi-final double header here tomorrow.
Spearheaded by medium pacer R Vinay Kumar, who has grabbed 50 wickets from the last 10 matches (in both list A and first-class formats), Karnataka also boast of a formidable batting line-up, with Robin Uthappa and youngster Karun Nair scoring centuries in their successful chase of 301 against Gujarat in the quarters.
Having won the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Trophy, Karnataka will be eyeing to make a hat-trick of titles.
In Jharkhand, who will be missing India pacer Varun Aaron, Karnataka should have an easy opponent in the first semifinal at the JU second campus ground in Saltlake.
“In limited overs, you can’t underestimate a side. We’re not thinking much about the opposition but our focus is on our strength. If we play to our potential we can beat any side,” Vinay Kumar said.
But going by the local interest and the intense rivalry that the two teams had this season, all eyes would be on the Bengal versus Railways fixture at the floodlit Eden Gardens.
Railways had a bitter rivalry against Bengal this season, beginning with Murali Kartik’s ‘Mankading’ in the Ranji group stage.
The two teams had met again in the Ranji quarters with a charged-up Bengal derailing Railways’ campaign, while Kartik and pacer Anureet Singh had to bear the brunt of a crowd fury.
Both the teams’ built-up has been phenomenal with Bengal rattling Tamil Nadu for 90 runs, thanks to some scintillating pace bowling by Mohammed Shami and Ashok Dinda.
Railways, on the other hand, stunned a star-studded Punjab by a massive 137 runs with pacers Anureet Singh and Krishna Kant Upadhyay wreaking havoc in the second innings at the Eden.
Having lost to Maharashtra in the Ranji semis after a dream three-match winning run, Bengal would look to make amends. They would though miss key bowler Shami who’s left for the World T20.
The home side looked clearly under pressure as it shaved off the grass and has gone for a batting wicket, keeping in mind the threat Anureet and Upadhyay can pose.
Their batting showed little temperament with the likes of Manoj Tiwary (25), Wriddhiman Saha (1) and Laxmi Ratan Shukla (30) failing miserably against Tamil Nadu.
For Railways it would be time for revenge even as coach Abhay Sharma dismissed all such talks.
“Everyday is a new day. Whatever happened is all past, we are looking to gear up fresh. The team who plays well will win, it’s simple,” Sharma said.