Karnataka, Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh would have a slight edge over their respective opponents in the three pre-quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy to be played here on Sunday.
While the Faiz Fazal-led Vidarbha should go as favourites against minnows Tripura, it will be a clash of equals when Karnataka take on an equally upbeat Rajasthan at the KL Saini stadium.
The third quarter-final between two neighboring states – Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh — also promises to be an exciting affair in which the former would be banking on the performance of Venkatesh Iyer, who shone in his debut T20 series against New Zealand and that could eventually be the difference between the two sides.
Coming to Vidarbha, they would rely on the performance of skipper Fazal, who has always delivered on the big stage and come Sunday, he would be eyeing for another big knock.
He, however, would need support from the likes of Athara Taide, Ganesh Satish, Yash Rathod and Akshay Wadkar to tame Tripura’s attack.
On the bowling front, young pacer Yash Thakur is among the wickets and is the second-highest wicket-taker from the league stage with 14 scalps.
The role of his co-pacer Darshan Nalkande and seasoned off-spinner Akshay Wakhare and left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate would be key for their chances of making the last eight.
Tripura, who had won all their five matches in the Plate Group, would need to dish out a clinical show, to spring a surprise.
In the MP VS UP game, focus would be on the lanky southpaw Iyer, who has sizzled with the bat in the league stage. The left-handed opener, a revelation after last IPL season, can take any good attack to the cleaners and UP’s would not be an exception.
Iyer has so far amassed 349 runs from five matches. For MP, another important cog in the wheel is batsman Shubham Sharma, who has so far scored 335 runs in the league stage.
But the other batters would also need to play their parts to perfection against a quality UP attack, which boasts of seamers like Yash Dayal and Shivam Mavi.
For UP, who were the runners-up of the last season, they would be eager to go one step ahead. And for that to happen, opener Madhav Kaushik and wicket-keeper batter Aryan Juyal would need to come good and tame the MP attack led by Avesh Khan.
UP’s middle order also needs to come good.
The Rajasthan versus Karnataka clash could be touted as a battle of equals but Karnataka having had more experience of playing in the knockouts could have an advantage.
It will be a battle between Karnataka batters – Ravikumar Samarth, Rohan Kadam, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, up against the likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Aniket Choudhary, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ravi Bishnoi and Shubham Sharma.
But if Rajasthan have to make the last 8, their batters would have to deliver, else Karnataka can romp home easily.
Fixtures: At Sawai Mansingh Stadium: Vidarbha vs Tripura, 9.00 AM; K L Saini Stadium: Karnataka vs Rajasthan, 9.00 AM; Jaipuriya Vidhyalaya Ground: Uttar Pradesh vs Madhya Pradesh, 9.00 AM.