A vital game awaits Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh from Wednesday and both hope for cheerful news around Christmas time. The two teams trained hard, sharpened their skills in batting and bowling and went through fielding drills for three hours on Tuesday in order to face wide-ranging challenges over the next four days at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium here at the Gahunje village along side the Pune-Mumbai Expressway.

The winner of the match here and at Nagpur would also be drawn in the Elite group in the next season. Maharashtra has spent two seasons in the lower group and Himachal Pradesh the current season.

Expectations high

Understandably expectation from the home team is high. The young team, led by wicket-keeper batsman Rohit Motwani, has surpassed itself winning three matches and enjoying the first innings lead in two.

Himachal Pradesh has the quality players to make the knock-out. It draws its strength from batsmen Abhinav Bali (two centuries and two half-centuries in five matches), Paras Dogra (two centuries and one half century in five matches), Rishi Dhawan (three half centuries in five matches), Amit Kumar (one century and one half century in two matches) and Varun Sharma (one century in five matches) and S. Sriram (two half centuries in five matches).

The teams (from): Maharashtra: Rohit Motwani (capt. & wk), Harshad Khadiwale, Chirag Khurana, Sangram Atitkar, Nikhil Paradkar, Ankit Bawne, Kedar Jadhav, Shrikant Mundhe, Domnic Muthuswamy, Akshay Darekar, Samad Fallah, Kaustubh Patil, Prayag Bhati, Ajinkya Joshi and Anupam Sanklecha

Himachal Pradesh: Ajay Ratra (capt. & wk), Abhinav Bali, Paul Valthaty, S.Sriram, Rishi Dhawan, Varun Sharma, Parad Dogra, Pratap Thakur, Gurvinder Singh, Vishal Bhatia, Shakun Saini, Saransh Thakur, Mohinder Sharma, V.S. Malik and Amit Kumar.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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