The scramble for the top two spots will intensify as the K.S. Subbaiah Pillai Trophy South Zone limited-over tournament winds to a close with the last set of matches on Wednesday.
Defending champion Karnataka, the form-team so far, leads the pack with four victories and 16 points and yet there is no certainty that the squad will emerge on top and qualify for the Vijay Hazare all-India tournament.
Monday’s melange of results — Andhra thumping Goa and gaining a bonus point and Kerala aggravating Tamil Nadu’s woes — have meant that both the victors, with identical points (13), have a chance of spoiling Karnataka’s party.
If, hypothetically, Andhra defeats Karnataka on Wednesday and Kerala gets past Goa, then Stuart Binny’s men will fail to secure a berth in the Vijay Hazare Trophy tournament.
In the event of Andhra and Kerala winning their final games, both teams will have 17 points each.
It is imperative for Karnataka to continue its winning run, and against Andhra Binny’s men are better placed as long as they keep complacency at bay. Karnataka’s batsmen are in form and the bowlers have done an adequate job in the last two games.
Robin Uthappa leads the run charts (375) and his batting colleagues have all had their long stints at the crease and though speedster Abhimanyu Mithun is nursing a knee injury, the team’s think-tank stressed that there was no cause for worry.
Andhra, meanwhile, has shown that its sum is larger than the parts. Men like K.S. Shahabuddin have bowled tirelessly and prised out wickets and the squad has emerged as the event’s surprise packet.
The other contender Kerala has found runs and S. Sreesanth’s return, after being indisposed with fever, has bolstered the team though he was expensive against Tamil Nadu.
The remaining teams in the bottom-half of the table — Tamil Nadu (5), Hyderabad (3) and Goa (-2) — can only hope to salvage pride. Despite having India’s most competitive league at Chennai, Tamil Nadu has continued to falter in recent times. Captain Dinesh Karthik has excelled with the bat but unfortunately, the rest have failed to rally around him.
At Margao: Andhra vs. Karnataka; At Porvorim: Goa vs. Kerala; At Vasco: Hyderabad vs. Tamil Nadu.
Keywords: K.S. Subbaiah Pillai Trophy