Karnataka is face with an uphill task if it is to advance into the Ranji Trophy knock-out stage.

It not only has to trounce bottom-placed Maharashtra in the last round league match of the tournament that starts here at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Saturday, but also hope that the outcomes of the other crucial Group ‘B’ matches between Delhi and Vidarbha at Nagpur, and Odisha and Uttar Pradesh at Cuttack facilitate its entry into the quarterfinals.

After seven matches Karnataka is sixth in its group with 15 points. Its primary objective would be to defeat Maharashtra by an innings or ten wickets to get seven points from the match and take its tally to 23 points.

As of now only Uttar Pradesh (27 points) with one match remaining is guaranteed a berth in the last eight. Baroda, with 22 points from eight matches and placed second in Group ‘B’, would be worried in spite of not taking the field. A win for Delhi or Vidarbha and a win with bonus point for Odisha would eliminate it from the tournament.

Clearly the modified format has largely contributed to the plight of a few fancied teams this season. Though it managed to outsmart Tamil Nadu in a high scoring match and win three points, Karnataka has suffered on account of its unpredictable batting and was found wanting in the bowling department.

Batting coach J. Arunkumar said, “our batting has been only brilliant in patches and none of our bowlers figure in the top bracket (R. Vinay Kumar and H.S. Sharath have 17 apiece).

“The aim is to win the match here. S.K. Moinuddin (left arm spinner) will come in for K.P. Appanna and off-spinner K. Gowtham will come for (medium pacer) Ronit More.’’

The visitor feels that the third and fourth day wicket will assist spinners and hence the decision to take the field with a second spinner.

Manish Pandey is a doubtful starter as the middle order batsman has aggravated an elbow related injury.

“He could not complete his 20 minute batting session in the nets and it looks like ‘tennis elbow’. He has been playing with it (irritating elbow) in about four matches. We will take a call on him tomorrow morning,’’ said J. Arunkumar.

It has been a season of woe for the home team with the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) terminating the services of coach Dermot Reeve before the last match against Baroda and handing over the reins to former national selector Surendhra Bhave.

Maharashtra has not won a match and is languishing in ninth position with 11 points.

“We will pick a team to win this match and avoid relegation to Group ‘C’, but we will provide opportunities to players who we think would be useful in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Satyajeet Bachav (left arm spinner) will replace the injured Akshay Darekar,’’ said Bhave.

The teams (from): Maharasthra: Rohit Motwani (captain), Harshad Khadiwale, Chirag Khurana, Sangram Atitkar, Kedar Jadhav, Ankit Bawne, Shrikant Mundhe, Sathajeet Bachav, Samad Fallah, Dominc Muthuswami, Virag Awate, Anupam Sanklecha, Sachin Choudhari, Prayag Bhati, Rahul Tripathi, Nikit Dhumal.

Karnataka: Stuart Binny (captain), Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Kunal Kapoor, K.L. Rahul, Ganesh Satish, C.M. Gautam, H.S. Sharath, Amit Verma, K. Gowtham, Ronit More, Karun Nair, S.L. Akshay, Abhimanyu Mithun, S.K. Moinuddin.

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